How indies can cash in on the need for sustainable health

28 October 2022, 08:35 AM
  • The Food Foundation is calling for the food industry to have stricter health and sustainability targets – this is where fine food retail can excel
How indies can cash in on the need for sustainable health

Named the State of the Nation’s Food Industry, a new annual report from the Food Foundation has revealed that obesity-linked disease is crippling the NHS and negatively impacting our environment and climate. 

Therefore, along with a number of food businesses, the charity is calling on the government to introduce mandatory reporting of sales of fruit and vegetables, high fat salt and sugar foods, plant and meat-based proteins and the amount of food waste they generate. 

How independents can get involved
As fine food retailers champion healthy and sustainable food, this is something that indies can certainly get involved with and even excel at. 

The report also highlighted the need for retailers to give more support to low-income families. Currently, Sainsbury’s and Iceland are the main retailers promoting the government’s Healthy Start scheme intended to support access to fruit, vegetables and milk for children aged under four. 

Getting involved with these promotions is something independent fine food retailers can do to help poorer families and demonstrate their dedication to providing healthy, sustainable food.

But as Vicki Hird, head of the sustainable farming campaign at Sustain, explained, “For the huge number of smaller scale and speciality food businesses, there clearly needs to be full support, possibly financial aid and training in delivering this vital tool, so they are not unfairly burdened.” 

When it comes to tackling food waste, Lucy Antal, senior project manager and lead for food justice at Feedback Global, explained that “Much of the current conversation around food surplus and waste is focused on catering and households but retailers must also play a part in this. 

“Measuring food sales, in particular, the types of food such as fruit and vegetables, proteins and high fat and sugar foods will help paint a picture of the UK’s current diet and enable policymakers and campaigners to target advice and policy change more specifically. For independent food retailers, the cost of sales will be becoming increasingly important to monitor, as food price inflation continues to grow. 

“Reducing your food waste through recording sales and discard will help identify potential cost savings relating to stocktaking, item turnover and promotional activity can help to tighten up those areas where food (and money) is being wasted”, she added. 

A welcome proposition
According to Rebecca Tobi, senior business and investor engagement manager at the Food Foundation, explained, “The need for food businesses to address the twin issues of diet-related ill health and the climate crisis is more urgent than ever. 

“If we are to meet Net Zero commitments on climate change and reverse the downward trajectory of the nation’s health, it is imperative that food businesses recognise their responsibility.”

This proposal is something that other industry bodies support. As Lucy explained, “A regenerative, nourishing food system demands bold action from policymakers to support smaller, locally rooted initiatives for food economies. 

“The suggestion of mandatory food measurements is one that Feedback welcomes and that we included as part of our response to Defra’s consultation on changes to public sector food catering and procurement.

“Feedback supports the recommendation of compulsory standards for caterers and retailers including reporting of on-site and off-site food waste, and providing evidence of implementing a ‘Target, Measure, Act’ approach. We recommend that the best practice standard to achieve a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030 should be strengthened to become an essential requirement.

Vicki added, “Without transparency and mandatory reporting, we will continue to have a broken food system as we will just not be able to address the major resilience, public health and environmental harms the food supply is causing. As we know voluntary approaches fail, it is vital to make it law.”

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