In this country we have shameful levels of food insecurity, with food bank usage rising year on year, and an estimated over eight million people now in a state of such financial precarity they can't afford to eat
Today sees the launch of A People's Food Policy - a groundbreaking manifesto outlining a people's vision of food and farming in England that is supported by over 80 food and farming organisations.
The report draws on 18 months of extensive, nation-wide consultations with grassroots organisations, NGOs, trade unions, community projects, small businesses and individuals. It has resulted in a set of policy proposals and a vision for change that is rooted in the lived experiences and needs of people most affected by the failures in the current food system.
It's widely acknowledged that agriculture is one of the sectors that will be faced with the most uncertainty as a result of the UK leaving the EU. Rising food prices is an issue that has already been repeatedly reported on in the context of Brexit, while migration restrictions are set to have an enormous impact on the availability of workers in the agricultural sector.
In the face of this uncertainty, the new report argues that policy, legislative framework and a new Food Act that, "integrates the compartmentalised policy realms of food production, health, labour rights, land use and planning, trade, the environment, democratic participation and community wellbeing" is now needed.
Heidi Chow, food campaigner for Global Justice Now, which is part of the coalition that developed A People's Food Policy says: "From the increasing corporate control of agriculture in the UK, to the price of basic food stuffs outstripping the rises in real wages, through to small farmers being aggressively squeezed out of the market - with over 33 000 small to medium farms closing down in the past decade - the UK is witnessing a series of crises in how we produce, distribute and sell food. The Government's approach to addressing these problems is at best piece-meal and at worst non-existent.
"The new Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, stated last week that the UK can have both cheaper and better quality food after Brexit but the experience of many UK farmers and growers suggests that cheaper food prices must be paid for by lowering environmental and social standards across the farming sector. Instead we need to see greater regulation of the food retail sector to ensure farmers everywhere are paid a fair price for their produce.''
Dee Butterly, the coordinator of A People's Food Policy, a young tenant farmer and member of the Landworkers' Alliance adds: "The lack of a coherent, joined-up food policy framework in England is becoming increasingly problematic. In this country we have shameful levels of food insecurity, with food bank usage rising year on year, and an estimated over eight million people now in a state of such financial precarity they can't afford to eat. Just last week, Unicef released a report ‘Building the Future', with evidence that the UK has some of the highest levels of child hunger and deprivation among the world's richest nations, with one in five children under 15 years old currently food insecure.
The way our food system functions and is governed needs to radically change. We need to develop a national food policy in that coming years transforms our food systems and that puts equality, resilience and justice at the forefront. As Brexit negotiations begin, we urge politicians to seriously consider this new blueprint for a progressive national food policy which supports a food system where everybody, regardless of income, status or background, has secure access to enough good food at all times, without compromising on the wellbeing of people, the health of the environment, and the ability of future generations to provide for themselves."
Many countries in Europe and around the world have begun to adopt progressive frameworks such as food sovereignty, agroecology and the right to food into regional and national legislation in an effort to create a more stable and just food system.
A People's Food Policy is an extensive report, extending to 100 pages across nine thematic chapters covering governance, food production, health, land, labour, environment, knowledge and skills, trade and finance - each with an in depth analysis and policy proposals for transforming the food system in England.