4th February 2022
The Government White Paper – Levelling up the United Kingdom – published this week sets out the next steps in the Government’s programme to reduce inequalities across the UK. Low incomes are linked to poorer diets, higher rates of childhood obesity and increased risks of diet-related diseases such as heart disease and cancer. So, reducing inequalities is key to improving public health.
The paper looks at factors to tackle regional, social, economic and health inequalities in a wide-ranging plan that sets forward 12 missions in sectors such as education, digital connectivity and transport.
In Chapter 3, which sets out strategies to tackle disparities in healthy life expectancy between the most and least deprived communities, we are reminded that people living in the most deprived communities in England have up to 18 fewer years in good health than people living the least deprived communities. Critical to this are poor diets and a lack of access to affordable, healthy food.
The proposed health inequalities policy programme rightly includes supporting people to change their food and diet, and we welcome that this includes food served in schools. We expect to see more detail on this in the Government’s forthcoming Food Strategy white paper. The British Nutrition Foundation is happy to see that the Government has adopted Henry Dimbleby’s recommendations about eating and learning, with a greater focus on education for children and young people about food. Bursaries for teacher training and leadership are welcomed and will help support the recruitment drive that is required for new food and nutrition teachers in our secondary schools. The British Nutrition Foundation recommends that those training to become primary school teachers receive food and nutrition training and support in their early career years.
A strategic approach, with consistent and accurate messages about healthier lifestyles, is needed to help pupils to understand the effect of behaviours on health and encourage them to take responsibility for their own wellbeing. We have always championed a whole school approach to food. So, we are pleased to see that governors will receive training and support to further strengthen this strategic approach and reinforce the importance of good food and nutrition across the school day, including school meals, education and parental/carer engagement. The British Nutrition Foundation provides advice and guidance around a whole school approach through its education website, Food – a fact of life and its online webinars.
We know there is excellent work around cooking and food skills already taking place in schools, supported by a dedicated workforce of food and nutrition teachers. We strongly agree that young people should leave school knowing how to cook healthy, nutritious meals. However, food education is more than ‘cooking’ and must encompass learning around healthy eating and where food comes from, to enable young people to make healthier and more sustainable choices now and into the future.
We are pleased that curriculum development around food and nutrition has been included in the White Paper and we will continue to be vocal about the reinstatement of food and nutrition at A-Level, essential to ensuring a progressive pathway from GCSE to university degree courses and degree level apprenticeships and enabling young people to access the extensive career opportunities from ‘farm to fork’.
The British Nutrition Foundation, through its Food – a fact of life education programme, provides a range of evidence-based resources, training and support for schools and is very much looking forward to working with other organisations to support the aspirations of the White Paper around food education.
Overall, we welcome the steps announced in this White Paper but highlight the substantial challenges to improving dietary quality and reducing diet-related disease in the UK. Wide ranging action across sectors and disciplines will be needed to make sure that everyone across the UK has access to an affordable, healthier and more sustainable diet.
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Please note that advice provided on our website about nutrition and health is general in nature. We do not provide any personal advice on prevention, treatment and management for patients or their family members.