Good Food Governance

Eating Better at a city level

By Mark Breen

Mark Breen

In our latest blog post, Mark Breen from the UK-wide coalition of over 60 civil society organisations, Eating Better, describes how the organisation has focused on actions that enable people to eat less and better meat and dairy. Eating Better is an alliance of 60 organisations who are passionate about health, environment, farming, animal welfare and social justice. Organisations include Sustain, Friends of the Earth, Compassion in World Farming, WWF and the Pasture-fed Livestock Association.

In 2019 Eating Better identified 24 actions across five sectors to reduce meat and dairy consumption in the UK by 50% by 2030 and transform what is left to better forms of production.

We call this Better by Half: a roadmap to less and better meat and dairy, because it is:

  • better for you and your health
  • better for the countryside and environment
  • better for animal welfare

The roadmap provides a blueprint with actions for Government, producers, food retail, food service and investors. In a difficult political and economic national environment, city-level action stands out as a good way to make progress. Research released by C40 Cities in June 2019 revealed that food is amongst the biggest sources of consumption-based emissions from cities. Eating a sustainable diet and avoiding food waste could cut GHG emissions from food by more than 60%.

A healthy and sustainable food environment

The places where we live, work and learn contribute to our food choices. Actions set out in our roadmap sit particularly well with city-level action and we hope what is happening in Bristol can inspire other areas. We see public procurement as a particularly useful tool.

Bristol – a step ahead

Bristol is a step ahead of many other UK cities, alongside other European cities such as Copenhagen, where progressive procurement policies have been developed. Bristol is aiming to be an exemplar in catering and procurement and, as part of Going for Gold, a conference in Bristol on 14 November addressed the impact of food in the climate crisis.

At today’s ‘City Gathering’ the Mayor, Marvin Rees, announced that Going for Gold is to be a priority for the city this year. We are highly encouraged that ‘Eating Better’ was included by Going for Gold as one of the six action areas for individuals, organisations and importantly the food sector to create a supportive food environment. Many Bristol restaurants, cafes and caterers already find it useful to engage with the Sustainable Restaurant Association to access resources and advice, and we would encourage others to do likewise. We see the formation of a food policy council in Bristol as a step that other cities could learn from.

Food procurement changes the way we eat

Procurement provides a fantastic opportunity to create a step-change in the food that people buy and eat in cities. This is applicable in public settings such as hospitals and schools as well as when people eat out. The establishment in the West of England of a Public Sector Food Procurement Group in 2012 has been valuable. Organisations such as North Bristol NHS Trust are now improving their ratings under the Food for Life programme.

North Bristol NHS Trust was the first hospital trust in England to achieve silver from the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Award for its patient meals in 2013. Now, 93% of patient food is freshly prepared. The Trust source milk from a local family run pasture-fed dairy farm. All meat is local and farm-assured, with organic beef and free-range eggs. This isn’t just good for health and the environment, but is also tasty: a recent survey showed 95% of respondents said meals were good or excellent.  

Centres of learning and also great food

Bristol’s universities are making good progress. The University of Bristol is committed to procuring local, sustainable, nutritious food in all its cafes and catering. They launched ‘Meat Free Mondays’, providing a great opportunity to make local and seasonal vegetables the star of the plate. 90% of milk used by the university is organic. We would encourage them to commit to sourcing meat from nature-friendly and higher welfare providers.

Good food – the default option

Sustainable and healthy food should be available to everybody. This is the aim of our roadmap and Bristol is setting an example by creating ‘food environments’ across the city where people can make good food choices. Bristol is taking being proactive in taking steps to make healthy and sustainable food the default option, and that is what we would like to see across the UK.

Find out more about Eating Better:

Mark Breen has a background in health and wellbeing policy. He works with Eating Better, leading on external communication. He is also a food fanatic, classically trained chef and cooking teacher focusing on local and seasonal food.

Join the conversation

So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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