The purpose of this briefing paper is to encourage debate among academics and civil society about the role of advocacy in food, what it is and how to use it more effectively for the public interest. The paper’s particular focus is on advocacy in nutrition and health, but it makes points of wider relevance to advocates of improved environmental, consumer and social justice features of the food system. It focuses on organisational advocacy, carried out by civil society organisations such as NGOs, public health associations and academia.
The paper takes as its starting point the widespread diet-related ill health we face today, and the need for strong public health advocacy to champion changes to the food system that favour the public good. It highlights the complexity for advocacy posed by multi-level governance, and the government’s continual sharing of power of policy making in the food system, typically in favour of the market interest. The paper describes some of the academic theory that underpins civil society campaigns and efforts to influence change, while also alerting food and nutrition advocates to the challenges, complexities and gaps in knowledge they may face. It calls for a process of discussion across academic disciplines and civil society about food, nutrition and the advocacy that is needed for change.