By Shraddha Kaul, public affairs and public relations manager, British Poultry Council
This month the BPC has contributed to the Government’s call for evidence in forming a National Food Strategy.
Our challenge for a National Food Strategy is to create a social structure in which everyone is fed healthily and sustainably while championing the values that give meaning to our relationship with British food.
Our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing begins with food. The self-belief and dignity that comes wrapped up in food can be a catalyst for social inclusion and can help transform lives. From an everyday customer in a supermarket, a patient in hospital, child in school, to someone who needs help from a charity or foodbank, everyone should have the privilege to choose what they eat every day.
As a sector that produces half the meat eaten in this country, we believe it’s our responsibility to help address some of the most pressing social issues of our time, from food poverty, nutritional health to rural and urban employment. As responsible food producers, we’re determined to strengthen our local communities by promoting wellbeing and creating purposeful jobs.
By investing in talent, improving employability, and helping the next generation prepare for the world of work, British food producers are helping build and nurture skills and confidence.
Across our sector, an extraordinary amount of work goes into supporting and creating opportunities for individuals, schools and local communities in the areas we operate. We have long established relationships with colleges and universities to support placement schemes and scholarships. Our work with local schools is helping attract young people, growing our skills base and building a talent pool of leading minds.
Our #FoodOnEveryTable campaign is working to ensure that food supply is seen as a national security issue. We believe government, businesses and civil society must work together to deliver a Strategy that guarantees everyone access to safe, nutritious and affordable British food that British growers are proud to produce.
For the British poultry meat sector to play its fullest role in delivering a food system that leaves no one behind, our National Food Strategy must:
- Put food on the table to alleviate hunger
With Brexit on the horizon, the cost of food is likely to rise. A National Food Strategy must guarantee safe, nutritious and affordable British food grown to British standards for everyone so that no one goes hungry.
- Maintain a secure supply of food that recognises British standards in trade deals
British farmers have worked incredibly hard to build a food system that enhances British food values and ensures high standards of production from farm to fork. It is vital that, following Brexit, any trade deals ensure that only food that meets our high British standards can enter the British market. A National Food Strategy must prevent the creation of a two-tier food system, in which only the affluent can afford to eat British food grown to British standards.
- Use British food as a catalyst for improving health, wellbeing and social care
Coming together around the table, whether at school, at a community cafe or at a local club, and eating nutritious food is good for our bodies, and good for our minds. A National Food Strategy must recognise the vital role that access to safe, nutritious and affordable British food grown to British standards can have in improving our nation’s health, wellbeing and social care.
A National Food Strategy must ensure that food producers have continued access to labour to continue to put food on every table. Specifically, for the poultry meat sector, 60% of our workforce (24,100 people) are EU nationals, and every year we have about 7,200 vacancies that need to be filled with non-UK workers. If these vacancies cannot be filled post-Brexit, it will have a significant impact on the production of, and therefore cost of food – all of which will pose a risk to affordability and potentially force people to go without food.
In order to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), our food system needs to become more sustainable. A National Food Strategy gives us an excellent opportunity to sustainably feed people in this country; with food producers, government, and civil society all playing their part in putting food on every table for the next 75 years.