Square Meal: Why we need a new recipe for farming, wildlife, food and public health
The Square Meal report, published in 2014 was written by a collaboration of 10 UK organisations: the RSPB, Friends of the Earth, the National Trust, the Food Ethics Council, Sustain, the Wildlife Trusts, the Soil Association, Eating Better and Compassion in World Farming working with the Food Research Collaboration.
The report calls for stronger government leadership in planning the future use of land, food policy, farming and conservation in England and for wider public engagement on issues that affect the whole of society.
It focuses on four key inter-connected areas and proposes solutions for:
- Improving health: getting a grip on the growing crisis of obesity and diet-related ill-health
- Good food for all: tackling food poverty, ensuring fair food supply chains
- Sustainable farming: investing in a resilient farming system in the face of climate change and dwindling resources
- Enhancing nature: to bring back colour to the countryside and protect the natural environment on which we all depend.
Square Meal aimed to start a wider conversation about how to secure a healthy countryside and healthy food for everyone, and get greater public benefit from our food and farming system. The issues raised by this report are now being advocated by Square Meal members and others as part of negotiations on Brexit and food and so this group is no longer active.
“We welcome this clear articulation of our broken food system, and call for greater sustainability and accountability in food and farming. Unfair trading practices, abuse of supply chain power and devaluation of food and farming threaten the future for producers and consumers alike. In seeking solutions however, it is critical to look not just at our British food and farming practices, but also to our interconnectedness with global supply chains and the millions of farmers and workers in poorer countries who toil tirelessly in the production of the daily food on our plates. There must be better coherence between our domestic food and farming system and international trade and agricultural policy if we are to deliver a genuinely fair, responsible and transparent food system, fit for the future.”
“This report provides an excellent overview of what is wrong with our food and farming system and gets us going on the urgent debate about how we make it deliver for everyone sustainably.”
“Square meal demonstrates the multiple wins in moving to a sustainable food system, one that can ensure food security within planetary boundaries. This clearly shows that a sustainable food system is both possible and the most affordable way forward for individuals and society as a whole. The government needs to step up and create a minister for food that covers health, agriculture, the environment, development and business, and stop the current siloed approach.”
“The UK Health Forum warmly welcomes this succinct and readable report which connects the inter-related issues of health, sustainable development and environmental protection and makes a powerful case for an overhaul of the public policy approach to food and farming. We are paying a very heavy price for cheaply produced, highly processed food. Diet-related ill-health causes unnecessary suffering and premature deaths and also underpins grievous inequalities in rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. SQUARE MEAL offers policy makers a clear-eyed analysis of the problems with the current direction of food production policy, and it identifies ways to approach those challenges. Unless and until we have the big discussions about how to fix our broken food culture and grapple with market failures we will not succeed in turning around the epidemic of obesity and poor dietary health in the UK.”
Capital Growth is a network of over 2,200 community food growing groups, school food growing projects and small-scale horticultural enterprises in London, supported by Sustain’s London Food Link project, the Mayor of London and the Big Lottery:
“Over recent years, we have seen more and more people wanting to grow food, whether as a leisure activity, to feed their families, or to make money – particularly from horticultural produce. We have helped over 100,000 Londoners to participate in food growing. We have witnessed increasing demand for access to land and for training in food growing skills and how to run a food enterprise. But – as the Square Meal report so rightly identifies – it takes leadership at national and local government levels to ensure that productive space for food growing is included in planning policies and biodiversity-friendly land management is adopted, whether it be protecting greenbelt land from inappropriate development, or asking for suitable community food growing space to be provided in social housing developments. When food is prioritised then everyone benefits – from horticulturalists more able to make a good living close to the markets where they can sell their produce, to low-income families on urban housing estates having better access to fresh and healthy fruit and vegetables.”
“The evidence of the impact of diet on health and its costs to healthcare is clear. Diabetes costs the NHS £1.5 million to treat every hour, and much of this disease burden is preventable. The growth of evidence about food’s impact on the environment is also compelling . That’s why the Faculty of Public Health supports the Square Meal report. We need a food and farming system based on protecting and promoting good health for people as well as eco-systems. We welcome this report as a valuable addition to that understanding.”
“The Square Meal report gives a comprehensive overview of the problems facing our food system, setting out clearly some of the actions we can take now to deliver the step change that’s needed. Just as we often fail on providing the perfect ingredients we know that are needed for a ‘square meal,’ we are similarly failing to prepare the groundwork for the more robust food system that will be essential as the global population continues to increase, consumer demands become ever more sophisticated, and climate change affects what we can grow and where. The Square Meal report makes an important contribution to the debate about how changes to the way that we produce, deliver and consume our food, can provide people with a healthier, more balanced, and sustainable diet.”