There are just under 2 weeks left to give your feedback on the draft Sheffield Food Plan. The Food Plan aims to help Sheffield on the way to becoming a healthier city, with benefits for the environment and the economy. Here’s a quote from the draft plan, available to download as a PDF:
The Sheffield Food Plan is a unique strategy for the city. It addresses the complexity of food issues in Sheffield by looking at food from a much wider perspective; linking health, health inequalities, the local environment and the local economy to shape an ambitious vision for Sheffield.
In short, the Sheffield Food Plan attempts to promote a strong food economy, the health and environmental aspects of food and, crucially, the pleasures of eating and sharing food.
(Sheffield Food Plan: Consultation draft – pg 24)
The Food Plan is the work of a steering group comprising representatives from NHS Sheffield and Sheffield City Council as well as Sheffield Wildlife Trust, Grow Sheffield and parties from the voluntary, community and business sectors. It has been funded by Sheffield Let’s Change4Life, part of a national programme aimed at tackling obesity. 7 key areas are addressed by the Food Plan:
Local Food - To make sure that food eaten in Sheffield is sourced as locally as possible.
Cooking and Culture - To make sure all Sheffield residents can plan and cook healthy meals.
Community Food Growing – To make community food growing activities an important part of Sheffield’s communities.
Access to Healthy Food - To make sure Sheffield residents are able to conveniently access, buy and consume healthy food.
Public Sector Catering – To make sure food bought and sold by the public sector (the Council, NHS etc) is good for people’s health, the environment and the economy.
Food businesses - To make sure Sheffield is a regional centre for quality, safe food and that it is home to profitable food retail and manufacturing.
Lifestages – Sheffield people are enabled and supported to make informed choices about their health through improved food, diet and nutrition throughout their lives.
As part of the consultation process, Sheffielders are asked to identify the 3 areas out of these 7 that they consider to be the most important. Having read the plan and given my feedback, here’s the 3 that stick out for me:
Local food: I really value being able to eat food that has been produced in the nearby areas. Why? Well, for one, I like Sheffield and I want it to prosper as a city, and I think investing – even small amounts – in the businesses we have here is an important part of that. Secondly, I feel more confident that the food I eat is fresh as it hasn’t had to travel far to get to me. Thirdly, there is a massive environmental benefit to producing food locally for a community. In the Food Plan, a target is set of 60% of the food consumed in the city having been produced in the city (from urban, peri-urban and rural land). It also mentions that food transport accounts for 25% of HGV miles on the roads – a huge contribution to our national carbon footprint.
Projects that have targeted the idea of eating locally produced food have already demonstrated the impact on carbon emissions of cutting down on food miles. One of the best known projects has been the Fife Diet, where a small group from the Fife area committed to eating only food produced locally. Calculations of their ‘foodprint’ showed that their style of eating lowered their carbon emissions by 25-50% (depending on how committed they were to local eating). Isn’t that massive? But unsurprising, if it’s true that our choices about how we eat account for over 30% of our household carbon emissions. The Fife Diet has sparked off interest nationally and the Cornish Diet was launched last year with the aim of sourcing 85% of food eaten in Cornwall, from Cornwall itself.
Access to healthy food: This is an all-encompassing aspect of the Food Plan so for me it has to be really important. In very simplistic terms, there’s a relationship between obesity and poverty. Is it chicken or egg – are people obese because they are poorer, or poorer because they are obese? Sheffield has a number of socially disadvantaged areas so this is important for us as a city to take care of our own citizens. The Food Plan aims to increase fresh food availability in areas with poor access to healthy food and to improve availability of healthy eating options in public sector food sales.
Lifestages: I think the Food Plan does a good job here of recognising the importance of education in improving our eating habits. Whilst this section focusses on eating in all stages of life, I’d like to think that with good support throughout education- and I know a lot of schools already have great practice in this area – pupils can enter independent life with knowledge of growing their own food, and cooking their own food to embed healthier attitudes towards eating.
Each area is so closely interconnected that it is difficult to separate them. You can find out much more detail by downloading the draft Food Plan here – go to the bottom of the page, where you can either download the full version or the summary. I recommend reading the full version if you have time – don’t be put off by the length, it’s easier to read than you might think and very interesting. You need to submit any comments by Friday 25th February 2011. Organisations and groups with an interest are also invited to make more formal responses, and there is information on the page about how to do so.