10 February 2022, 07:56 AM
  • Plans to inspire a ‘school cooking revolution’, allow GPs to prescribe healthy food and boost opportunities for rural areas were announced in the Levelling Up White Paper
What does ‘Levelling Up’ mean for the food sector?

The Government recently unveiled its Levelling Up White Paper, a plan to “transform the UK by spreading opportunity and prosperity” by shifting “Government focus and resources to Britain’s forgotten communities” throughout the 2020s.

The paper includes 12 “national levelling up missions” which the Government aims to achieve by 2030, such as improving public transport and ensuring access to 5G broadband. The food and drink sector also features in the plans, specifically around opportunities for improving public health.

“Recommendations will be taken forward from Henry Dimbleby’s review towards a National Food Strategy,” the announcement said. “[The Department for Education] will work with the Food Standards Agency to pilot measures to ensure greater compliance with the school food standards. The Government will pilot the Community Eat Well programme, enabling GPs to prescribe exercise and healthy food.”

Plans to “help ensure that everyone can access, understand, and enjoy the benefits of a healthy and sustainable diet” through policies such as investment of up to £5m to “launch a school cooking revolution” and plans to trial a programme where doctors can prescribe vouchers for fresh fruit and vegetables alongside cooking lessons and nutritional education, will be set out in the forthcoming Food Strategy White Paper.

More focus on food needed

Despite these plans, the Food Foundation argues that a “much greater policy focus on improving the food system will be needed if the Government is to successfully achieve the levelling up goals that it has set itself”.

“The upcoming Food Strategy White Paper and Health Disparities White Paper provide an opportunity for the Government to significantly raise the bar, to truly capitalise on the ambition of last year’s National Food Strategy, and to deliver the food system transformation that is so urgently needed for the success of the levelling-up agenda, and for our health and the health of the planet,” the group said. 

It goes on to say that achieving the 12 national ‘missions’ will be “impossible without ambitious action to improve the food system”.

Unlocking the potential of rural communities

Minette Batters, president of the NFU, said the white paper provides an important opportunity for rural areas to engage with the Government and “demonstrate everything they deliver for the country”.

“If the Government gets this right, it could help unlock the potential of rural communities to the benefit of the whole country; boosting climate-friendly food production, economic growth, rural tourism and opportunities for those living and working in the countryside.”

For this to work, however, she said the Government must “reach every part of the country on the most local level possible. This will help ensure that all parts of the country, no matter how small or remote, can benefit from progressive policies and investment in areas such as digital connectivity, transport, skills and public services.” For this reason, investing in rural connectivity would “revolutionise” many farming businesses and boost efficiency and productivity. 

“We will continue to work with the Government throughout the development of the white paper and ahead of the upcoming rural proofing report to ensure that the value of rural areas and farm businesses are reflected in future policy,” Minette said.

Find out more about the value of Britain’s rural pound here.