It’s been a mixed bag on the news front around the National Food Strategy. The Grocer says ‘flop was always on the cards, but Dimbleby isn’t done yet.’  MSN news has the story ‘Why the Government’s food strategy is set up to fail’ due to how the new food strategy for England is the latest to emphasis “personal responsibility and choice” rather than concrete ways to help people switch from unhealthy eating to healthier diets.

Weight loss is a challenging task. It requires a great deal of willpower to fight the endless temptations we’re bombarded with each day. We don’t even have to walk to the fast food outlets anymore, just sit on a sofa and have it delivered to us. Fast food has been called addictive due to the effect the combination of sugar, salt, and unhealthy fat has on the brain. Plus, it is a lot cheaper that sustainably produced food. This is why Boris Johnson’s ‘Eat Less’ solution is akin to ‘Let them eat cake’ it is so out of touch with the realities of the obesity crisis facing the UK.

Obesity Crisis

The people most impacted by our broken food systems are people in deprived areas. Key findings from Health Survey for England 2019 Overweight and obesity in adults and children found that

Adults living in the most deprived areas were the most likely to be obese. This difference was particularly pronounced for women, where 39% of women in the most deprived areas were obese, compared with 22% in the least deprived areas… Children’s obesity was closely associated with their parent’s BMI status.

As women are predominantly the care givers to children this indicates that if obesity in women rises it could lead to a rise in the obesity of children.

Cancer Timebomb

We’re not just talking about people needing to lose a bit of weight.  NHS figures suggest 360,000 people will develop cancer because they are overweight or obese between 2020 and 2030. By 2030, there will be 36,800 cancer cases a year linked to excess weight – about 100 cases a day, or one every 15 minutes. By 2035, the number will have risen to 112 a day, or one every 13 minutes.

A huge cost in human life and to the NHS. The smoking ban helped tackle the difficult job of protecting our national health and the NHS. Many people said the smoking ban wouldn’t work but a year later, people asked why it wasn’t done sooner. We need similar bold steps to deal with our broken food system and obesity crisis.

Of course, we all have personal choice as Boris Johnson is alluding too. We all know that eating less junk food, doing more regular exercise, giving up smoking and drinking less will improve our health, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Greenwashing is unhealthy

One reason is we live in a world where “healthy choices” are becoming increasingly harder and harder to make. We also have ‘greenwashing’ where companies promoting supposedly healthy food choices such as plant based junk food or plant based milk, say it’s good for your health and the environment, but really it’s just more processed food.

When you look at the ingredients on the back of a plant based milk there is a long list but do you what the ingredients are in Free Range milk – FREE RANGE MILK.  All the calcium, minerals, iodine, vitamins, protein, and healthy fats are naturally occurring and for the cost, a good quality fresh milk is a great way to access these healthy vital nutrients.

Processed Food 

Back in 2010 American food campaigner Michael Pollan wrote that if supermarkets really cared, they would have central aisles packed with fresh produce. Instead, they all have the same design, with two or three aisles of fresh produce, then most of the other aisles are processed food. The processed cereals at eye level (porridge oats at the bottom), milk at the far end corner so you have to pass the processed food, and be tempted to buy it, on the way.

Also, it might seem like there’s plenty of choice but many of the brands will come from one or two large food companies, the opposite of a vibrant local food system.

64 Rules 

As Michael Pollan said there are just two major facts.

The first is: “Populations that eat a so-called Western diet – generally defined as a diet consisting of lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of refined grains … invariably suffer from high rates of the so-called Western diseases: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

And the second is that people who eat a range of traditional diets don’t suffer from those diseases.”

As part of his 64 rules for Eating Right he said

Rule No. 27: “Eat animals that have themselves eaten well.” And that can be said for the milk we drink too.

A solution

We’ve lost our connection to good quality, locally produced food. Especially places that are considered ‘food deserts.’ I think one solution could be the government, with local councils, operate a box scheme for people on low incomes. This should be in partnership with local food producers. It will create a new market for their food. The farmers will be paid a fair price for their produce and people will have access to good quality basics like Free Range milk, dairy products, meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit.

This will support our food security and encourage new entrants into farming who see the benefit of sustainable farming systems, and within a few years the money paid out for the scheme, recouped via the savings to the NHS. A win, win for everyone concerned.


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