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Eating Better in the nations: a policy review

Reports | Published  6 March 2024

For healthy and sustainable diets to become the norm in the UK, we need national policies that support our farmers, safeguard our environment, and ensure everyone has access to safe and nutritious food. But how well are the four governments across the UK tackling this challenge? Eating Better’s new resource shines a light on the current state of play.

Government

Why focus on government action?

Food and farming is largely a devolved matter in the UK, but until recently, this was not a particularly active area for the four nations. However in recent years, namely since Brexit, food and farming policies in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have entered a new era of activity. National governments have had the task of developing and implementing new strategies in the absence of EU legislation. 

The flexibility of increasingly devolved governance means that food and farming policies across the UK can be tailored to reflect the unique characters, opportunities and needs of each nation. Implementing just and unique policies would work to create four symbiotic food systems which together enable access to healthy and sustainable diets UK wide. 

As a result of the whirlwind of activity happening in the food and farming policy space, amidst the hustle, there's a need for clarity and direction. Through gaining an understanding of the legislative landscape across the UK, the work of those in the food policy arena can be tailored to help governments develop and implement actions where there are currently gaps. In addition to this, areas of focus and specific asks of government can be formulated, and further work on food systems change can be developed with an understanding of the political context in which it is to be enacted. 

“Eating Better in the Nations reviews government action on making healthy and sustainable diets a reality across the UK. It celebrates progress but crucially highlights areas of improvement for governments. There are opportunities for each nation to build on their strengths and take learnings from others. These actions can create a fairer future for our health, farmers, the environment and animals. We look forward to working with our alliance members to strengthen Government policy to realise this future." Sarah Wakefield, Executive Director, Eating Better

The resource

The Eating Better Better by Half Roadmap provides 24 actions to be taken across 5 sectors to create an enabling environment to drive the necessary transformation in eating habits. Designed as a tool for those working on food policy, this resource uses the roadmap to review government policy against 6 key actions areas. 

From farming to school food standards, climate policy to land-use strategy, the report shows that without fail, more joined up thinking is needed both within, and between, each of the UK’s four nations. Our farmers need better support, and sustainability needs to be centralised within dietary guidelines, procurement and school food.

Read the full report and executive summary.

Read the full report and executive summary in Welsh.

Thoughts from the alliance

“Eating Better's report highlights that our society expects a lot from farmers: not only producing our food but delivering positive dietary, climate and biodiversity outcomes. That risks being wholly unachievable without proper joined-up thinking across all devolved government departments and financial support that goes beyond the tokenistic. While there has been progress in some areas, much more needs to be done. Farmers can and will deliver if we give them the tools and support to do so." Jimmy Woodrow, Executive Director, Pasture for Life.


“We want every child to enjoy a diet which supports their health and that of our precious planet. Schools provide an excellent opportunity to get the UK eating better. With children at school 190 days, teachers are able to develop a generation of environmental stewards, and as the food schools serve makes up the biggest component of public sector food buying, there is an exciting opportunity to shift the market towards sustainable food. The very best place to start is with the school food standards, introducing less and better meat and dairy to the school menu." Stephanie Slater, Founder/ Chief Executive, School Food Matters


“We believe that the F&B industry has a pivotal role to play in shaping our future food systems, helping to build a world where the average diet is both healthy and sustainable – but, without government action to support this radical and necessary transformation, this goal is unachievable. The Eating Better in the Nations report does a great job of examining where we are now in terms of food policy across these four nations and exploring where we need to go from here. At The SRA, we already see hospitality businesses making great strides towards sustainability; it’s time for policymakers to do the same, supporting our farmers, fishers and growers to do business in a way that safeguards our future and makes our collective health a priority.” Juliane Caillouette Noble, Managing Director of The Sustainable Restaurant Association