The British diet needs to change significantly to help society battle issues such as obesity and climate change, a new report from the National Food Strategy says.
The report’s independent lead Henry Dimbleby, who founded the Leon chain of restaurants, is calling for families with low incomes to be offered free fruit and vegetables to help them ‘break the cycle’ of buying food that is affordable but unhealthy.
The report also looks at how food is produced in this country and suggests changes to make agricultural production more sustainable as well as how products are marketed on supermarket shelves and in advertisements.
Further taxes on unhealthy food higher in sugar and salt, such as the one that has successfully made fizzy drinks less sugary by applying pressure to the brands behind them, are also encouraged.
College of Medicine Chair Dr Michael Dixon said the report offered hope that we can ‘reverse a broken system’.
He said: ‘This report is visionary and courageous and also much needed. It provides hope at a time when Covid 19 has exposed our vulnerability as a nation, which is in part the result of our poor diet.
‘It is also deeply practical, offering solutions that can reverse a broken system and vested interests that currently result in healthy food being least available to those who most need it.
He added: “The Community Eatwell Programme, in particular, recognises the huge potential role of empowered local communities working with primary care to radically change our eating habits and our health.”
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Government ministers have pledged to make proposals for a healthier Britain within six months of the report being published and Dimbleby is calling for US-style social prescribing of healthier food – via food vouchers – to ensure that those living in poverty can access fresh produce.
Part One of the review, which was commissioned in June 2019 by the government’s then Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, was published in July 2020, with today’s report the second part.
The report also encourages society to look to meat-free alternatives – including plant-based meat substitutes, fermented foods and even algae.
Ahead of the report being published, Dr Dixon said last week that while affordability is a factor for the diets of poorer families in the UK, the Government has to work to ensure people are motivated to eat healthier food.
“Unaffordability is important but there is also an issue of how we motivate people as well as enabling them financially.”
Rural land that is not performing as it should in food production should be transformed into woodland that can absorb the emissions harming the planet.
How Britons absorb protein is in need of a swift overhaul too, the report says; suggesting that eating less meat is better for both society and the environment.
Dimbleby is also calling for the Government to begin investing more in food technology that offers an alternative to meat including making ‘lab-grown’ burgers, sausages and mince a bigger part of the nation’s diet.