Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

Food and health

It is clear, no matter which model or outcome you look at, that diets in the UK need to become healthier and more sustainable.

Achieving that dietary change, however, will not be easy and there are some particularly strong forces holding back progress – as FFCC outlined in Our Future in the Land. The food system is currently not a level playing field, in part because of the dominance of unhealthy products in the food environment and the power of their producers in the food system, inequalities and the challenges citizens face in affording and incorporating healthier and more sustainable options into their lives, and limited diversity in the food system (including “local” or short supply chains). This work programme supports the Commission’s work to move towards an agroecological farming system and a new land use framework, as these changes need to be supported by simultaneous transformations in food environments, the food system, and diets.

Our goals

To implement – or convene others to implement – the recommendations on food and health in Our Future in the Land. The next three years will focus primarily on the ‘levelling the playing field’ recommendation, and we are currently focusing on three key themes:

  • Affordability
  • Ultra-processed foods
  • The value of diversified/local food systems.

Other recommendations from Our Future in the Land, including growing the supply of UK fruit and vegetables, public procurement and community food plans/national food strategies will be woven into these key themes as mechanisms for achieving the necessary change.

This work will ultimately aim to level the playing field, so that healthy, agroecologically-grown food is accessible and citizens can afford it, that the influence of ultra-processed foods in our food system is minimised, and that diversified/local food systems are better understood for the role they can play in broader food system transformation. These are long-term objectives that will not be achieved in three years, but the actions laid out in the workstream are aimed in that strategic direction.

What are we doing now?

Our methods for the next three years will be to gather voices across the food system on our key themes, frame debates and trial innovative approaches at the local level. We will have a particular focus on bringing citizen voices to policy makers, food system actors and our partners.

We will:

  1. Gather citizen voices on the hard questions around:
    1. Affordability of healthy and agroecologically-grown food
    2. Ultra-processed food
    3. The value of diversified food systems
  2. Frame debates on affordability, ultra-processed foods, and diversified food systems
  3. Trial and test practical actions at the local level, such as the Beetroot Bond

Doing this work will enable us to:

  1. Use framing and evidence to influence actors within the food system and government policy across the UK
  2. Join citizens needs and realities with policy and practice objectives on food, health, climate, and nature
  3. Progress a better connection between practice and policy
What have we done so far?

In 2018 we held a roundtable discussion on health and wellbeing in food and farming which identified potential policy levers and initiatives which could have the biggest impact on human health.

This influenced the recommendations in Our Future in the Land published in July 2019.

In 2020 our attention turned to the implications of Covid and lockdown for the food system. In April 2020, this FFCC poll showed that lockdown had made 42% of Brits value food more, and in June we hosted a discussion on building resilient food systems in the COVID-19 recovery from Local Trust, Sustain and FFCC from June 2020.

Later in the year, FFCC Food Systems Researcher Elliot Kett reflected on the publication of the National Food Strategy’s interim report in this blog.

In 2021 we are now working to implement the ‘levelling the playing field’ recommendation from Our Future in the Land.

For more information on this strand of work, or if you'd like to be involved, please email hello@ffcc.co.uk