mprovements in public health beyond Covid-19 are set out by the Faculty of Public Health, in a new report which addresses environmental, social and economic sustainability. The UK’s ‘firefighting’ reaction to the pandemic is addressed while organisations and government are urged to ‘build back better’, creating a more resilient future for food. In one of the first public positions on Covid-19 and food, the opportunities for the UK food system include greater collaboration and equality.
Coronavirus has taken a huge toll on the UK, from being one of the highest death tolls per capita in the world, through to enormous economic shocks as the OECD predicts an 11.5% drop in GDP, one of the most severe in the world. Government has taken a highly reactive response to the pandemic, often putting responsibility for food supply shortages onto emergency food providers such as food banks or leaving it to the retailers. This ‘firefighting’ model of crisis management highlights the weaknesses in the national food plan.
Successes have been found amongst local actions where well-coordinated, collaborative relationships have been established with civil society groups. Scaling these initiatives up, or acknowledging them at a national level could help reduce the ‘postcode lottery’ of diet and health.
Recovery from the pandemic provides an opportunity for the UK to build a greater level of planning and health into the UK food system, with a government food plan being a vital step. The Faculty suggests this is a great time to ‘build back better’ and create a healthier and more resilient national food supply.
The report calls for the following key actions:
- Stronger role of government in the governance and provision of food
- Improved monitoring of food provision and consumption at all levels
- Commitment to narrow inequalities
- Embed food provision and diet into crisis response planning
- Increased population-level health assessment and governance