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Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London response to the EFRA committee enquiry COVID-19 and food supply

Reynolds, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-1073-7394, Isaacs, A., Neve, K., Pereira, L. ORCID: 0000-0002-4996-7234, Sharpe, R. and Wells, R. ORCID: 0000-0002-0329-2120 (2020). London, UK: City, University of London.

Abstract

The COVID19 pandemic has led to major disruptions in the UK and global food systems. The response by the UK government has been uncoordinated and inadequate. Our research highlights the broad range of policy input needed for food governance (at least 16 departments, plus multiple public bodies and agencies). Our research also highlights that while there have been efforts to connect this policy work in the past, food remains uncoordinated as a policy sector. The COVID19 crisis calls for a coordinated food response. Drawing on our research we recommend a cross-government committee to coordinate work on food policy. We also provide the following more specific recommendations: a. Address financial (in)security: For populations experiencing financial insecurity, it is close to impossible for the purchasing or consumption of healthy foods to be a priority. Actions include: •Reconsider the Universal Credit system so that it does not leave people with less money or with gaps in payment • Address challenges related to insecure work, such as zero hours contracts • Raise the minimum wage to a living wage. • Increase the eligibility and amount of Healthy Start vouchers and link them to local agriculture and food production. • Expand Free School Meals vouchers, and enable wider redeemability (in local food systems beyond supermarkets).• Provide funding and support for the expansion of local school meals to combat wider community food insecurity. b. Ensure food availability, and increase community resources to access to food, during and post lockdown. Without wider community and policy support the UK food system will be slow to recover. Actions include: • Support and subsidise the hospitality and food service sector to allow it to rebuild (supporting UK agriculture in the process).• Support UK farming, fishing and food production with proactive policies to stabilize labour and farm incomes • Invest in social spaces and organisations that can provide social outlets for children and families during and post lockdown (that also don’t rely on High Fat, Sugar and Salt foods (HFSS) as their main attraction). • Provide access to affordable, healthy and safe food through both the supermarket and alternative food systems – beyond food aid. c. Advertising and communication around food needs to be rethought in the UK post lockdown. Actions include: • A wider dedicated information and advertising campaign communicating a systems approach to food. This would help to educate on topics including: healthy and sustainable diets; risk and transparency of food governance; misinformation about diet on social media (e.g. miracle cures for COVID-19 or misleading claims about particular foods/diets) and finally, • A comprehensive restriction of all forms of marketing and promotion of HFSS foods.. D. Learn from international lessons that can be integrated into UK policy. • Cities and national governments have launched services to allow citizens to get basic food items directly from small scale farmers, supporting local production and providing access to healthy and fresh food. •Provided social safety nets and economic stimulus directly to vulnerable households so that they are able to purchase food despite the economic havoc wrought by Covid 19 lockdowns •Appoint a cross-government committee to coordinate work on food policy; in NYC this is being led by a “COVID-19 Food Czar”. • Understand that “Food Security is Economic Security is Economic Stimulus”

Publication Type: Other
Additional Information: Copyright the authors 2020.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
J Political Science
Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR355 Virology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
T Technology > TX Home economics
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology > Food Policy
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2020 12:04
URI: https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/24285
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