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Politics & Law Series: General Election

Politicians hear case for changing national food policies

By Professor Tim Lang
by Ed Grover

The Square Meal process is Tim Langnow well underway. In 2013-14, nine NGOs and City's Centre for Food Policy met to hammer out the questions and perspective we feel politicians ought to be engaging with.

The publication of the report began the dissemination of our thoughts. And big meetings with wider constituencies have been held to debate the issues and frameworks we think policy makers ought to deliver.

The Westminster breakfast on 22nd January 2015 was a shift of attention to the more conventional 'inside track' of policy development. With members of Parliament and the House of Lords, the meeting sketched the arguments of potential opponents; considered zero-cost actions that politicians could do now; weighed up the Westminster landscape; discussed potential shocks to the food system; and considered the state of Parliamentary interest now and after the forthcoming election.

This was all most useful policy mapping, which reinforced our judgement that conventional farming, food, health, animal welfare and conservation politics has a long way to go. For NGOs this provided excellent 'to do' lists and of the important of building public interest.

For academics, it reinforced the need to speak up about the consequences of evidence, and why we cannot just remain distant in a spurious neutrality. And for Parliamentarians, it showed the depth and weight of the collaborating organisations rallying around the Square Meal report.

The breakfast was another step in the patient, solid, slow policy process of building the case for new and positive directions for land use, health and society. It confirmed the existence of influential voices for change and added more detail to the thinking about what must be done to sort out the sorry mess that is current UK and European food and farming policy.

Tim Lang is Professor of Food Policy at City's Centre for Food Policy. The breakfast event on 22nd January was organised by the Food Research Collaboration to allow relevant bodies to discuss the Square Meal report.

The Square Meal report is a discussion document published in 2014 that highlights the evidence for changing food and farming policies with input from ten collaborating UK organisations.

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