Public health at top of Soil Association agenda

LEADING EXPERTS from education and the public health sector gathered last week at the annual Soil Association conference, under that banner ‘Good Food for All’.


The conference, which took place on from the 9th-10th October in London, focused on the central theme that food can cut across local and national government silos like no other issue.


Delegates at the conference went on to look 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.”
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 could continue to spend more on the hidden cost of our food system.


Figures from the conference also claimed that there has been a sharp rise in child hunger and malnutrition and also problems with the elderly being able to access and afford food across the UK.
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.


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.”
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.