Soil Association conference places good food firmly at the heart of the public health and schools agendas

11 October 2013

Day one of the Soil Association annual conference (9 October) brought public health and education leads from across the UK together for the first time under the banner of Good Food for All, with an unprecedented consensus that food can cut across local and national government silos like no other issue. The conference looked at local partnerships based around food as an agent of change and discussed how food holds the key, not only to transforming individual lives, but also to addressing key social, economic and environmental problems.

Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England (PHE) set out the new priorities of the new agency and explained how food underpins the ability to achieve every part of the strategy; "Food and the Food for Life Partnership and the School Food Plan fits with so many of the areas Public Health England will be focusing on."

Helen Browning, chief executive at the Soil Association said; "It was great to see so many different people come together to talk about the challenges we face and to see that the landscape of public health is changing with a shift towards food at the core. The day left me with a sense of the profound responsibility we have as an organisation, to continue to innovate, evaluate and deliver programmes and tools that will help release the potential of good food to heal and nourish our communities.''

Myles Bremner, director of the recently launched School Food Plan, which is supported by the government, cited the Soil Association-led Food for Life Partnership as an exemplar model for a whole school approach to transforming food culture in schools. “On behalf of the School Food Plan I can say that the Plan’s three guiding principles: ‘the Headteacher leads the change’; ‘see it through the eyes of the child’; and ‘a whole school approach to food’, are embodied in the values and approach of the Food for Life Partnership.”

The conference also addressed the growing problem of food poverty and the true cost of food. Delegates heard the cost for diet related diseases is already £10.9 billion and in future years we will continue to spend more on the hidden cost of our food system. We are also seeing a sharp rise in child hunger and malnutrition and also problems with the elderly being able to access and afford food.

Solutions like Magic Breakfast shared evidence of success and good practice - how schools in London have seen attendance and attainment increase for the price of a breakfast. New large scale projects such as the Sustainable Food Cities partnership from the Soil Association, Food Matters and Sustain shared plans to create food networks where everyone has access to good food within 500 metres of where they live. And the head teacher of Chestnuts Primary, London shared her experience of how food – through the Food for Life Partnership approach – has transformed her school, engaged parents and where children in one of the most deprived wards in the country are now eating 40% organic food every day in their school meals. The Soil Association’s Libby Grundy, Director of the Food for Life Partnership said;
‘Examples like Chestnuts School show that good food for everyone, especially the most deprived, can be a right and not a privilege’.

The conference brought together high profile speakers and practitioners from a range of backgrounds to share and inspire best practice and discuss novel approaches - raising new questions and championing ways to feed this generation and the next healthily and humanely. The conference took place on 9-10 October at Central Hall in London.


A selection of conference images are available to download here 

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