Friday, May 8, 2009

The Real Food Festival

I had a great day at the Real Food Festival One of the planned speakers for the public food debate was taken ill so I was asked to speak at the last moment. It was an interesting debate, chaired by Tim Lang with speakers, Rosie Boycott, Kath Dalemy and chef Chris Horridge.

The debate posed the question - Why is £2 billion of our money being spent on bad food?
Every year, government spends £2 billion of tax-payers’ money to feed people in public institutions such as hospitals, care homes, universities, schools and nurseries. Yet most of the food is provided with woefully little attention to health, how the food was grown, or how much money was spent with hard-working smaller businesses to promote local economies. At the same time, the NHS that taxpayers also pay for, has to pick up the bill for the health problems caused by poor food – with spiralling costs for heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and obesity, which all have a link to food quality. Meanwhile, food producers in the UK and abroad suffer from the perpetual focus on squeezing prices rather than meeting food quality and ethical trading standards.
What would our food system look like if instead we injected £2 billion of public money into food that is better for health, better for the economy and better for the planet?
Does government have a duty to lead by example and insist on good quality, healthy, environmentally friendly and ethical food, or are these simply pipe-dreams that we choose not to afford?
Can we rely on there being enough pioneering caterers to champion health and sustainability in schools and hospitals, or do we need concerted action, or even a law?

I came away from the debate even more convinced that we need to nail politicians over this and really make this an election issue.

I also got the chance to 'rant' at an open mike session on the rude health stand.

I am going back tomorrow to help out on the Real Bread Campaign stall


Greg Christian said...

I think the quickest way to move the food system forward is for the current players to become accountable for their actions. The more they see their part in the overuse of resources (water, oil, seafood, air quality . . .), the harder they will work to be more responsible and respectful. The less accountable the current players are, the more need there will be for new caterers, new laws, and more academic proof as to why our current food system doesn't work.