How connected is national food policy in England? Mapping cross-government work on food system issues

How connected is national food policy in England? Mapping cross-government work on food system issues

Kelly Parsons

Series Editor: Rosalind Sharpe

The second stage of the FRC Rethinking Food Governance project looks at the ‘connectedness’ of food policy-making by the national government in England. The findings are detailed in the Report and summarised in the Policy Brief.

Policy connections are important because many urgent food system issues – such as obesity or climate change – are multi-faceted and do not easily fit the institutional structures of government, which tend to be organised by responsibility for individual policy sectors, such as health, agriculture or trade. Major food-related challenges are seen to be systemic in that their causes and outcomes are complex and connected, spanning several policy areas. To tackle such problems effectively, policy-making also needs to be connected across departments, so the resulting policies work coherently together and achieve benefits across the system.

Information was collected from extensive documentary research and analysis, and from in-depth interviews with stakeholders from government, industry, civil society and academia.

The report presents nine examples of food policy issues where evidence of good cross-government working was found (and gives examples of specific policies, and the government departments involved); and lists 14 examples of issues where evidence suggested better connections could be made. A few policy issues appear on both lists: some aspects were well connected, others less so.

The lists should be viewed as a starting point for exploring how future food governance might be better connected. The examples of connected working are a foundation on which to build, and help provide some nuance to the long-standing blanket criticism that there is a failure to join up food policy in England.

Recommendations include the need for improved communication and transparency about what is happening in government, a more connected approach by civil society, increased participation in policy-making by external stakeholders, and for a governance mechanism to bring actors and activities.

 

About the author

Kelly Parsons

Kelly Parsons, now a Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire, led the FRC’s work on governance as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Centre for Food Policy. Her research focuses on policy and governance related to food systems, and includes policy integration, policy coherence, food governance arrangements, and systems approaches to food. She co-authored several of the Centre for Food Policy’s Briefs on food policy, ‘including on the food system, integrated food policy and food policy coherence. She has a PhD in food policy from the Centre for Food Policy, where her thesis was a historical, comparative policy analysis of two attempts to create a cross-government integrated food policy in the UK and Australia.

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