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Future Generations Commissioner calls for long-term plan for feeding Wales’ future

Take food insecurity seriously, says Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, as he calls for long-term plan for feeding Wales’ future 

Derek Walker, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

Wales needs to take food insecurity seriously and have a plan for feeding the population in the future, says the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.

Derek Walker is calling on Welsh Government to support a new generation of local sustainable and healthy food production, with the creation of a long-term national food strategy which he says is urgently needed in the face of an unstable global food system.

A long-term plan for feeding Wales, he says, is vital to ensure the most disadvantaged people in society, and future generations, can feed themselves and their families.

Cymru is the only country in the world with a Well-being of Future Generations Act and the Future Generations Commissioner, Derek Walker, has a role to support and challenge public bodies, including councils, health boards and Welsh Government, to protect the future as they tackle today’s problems.

At an event this Tuesday (April 16), the commissioner is bringing together people to examine how we can protect people in Wales from future food shortages and extreme price rises in an unstable global food system. The effects of a volatile global food system would further exacerbate the challenges of food insecurity, which Wales is already facing.

Professor Tim Lang, who will speak at the Food Shocks: Is Wales prepared for an uncertain food future? in Cardiff, a joint event with Our Food 1200, says the UK is unprepared for future food shocks, which could lead to empty supermarket shelves and further food price rises.

Canada and Germany are drafting comprehensive food plans that address resilience, while France requires cities to have plans to feed their populations from their rural spaces and Lithuania and Switzerland have national food reserves.

In Wales, Bannau Brycheiniog has placed local food networks at the heart of its vision for people’s well-being and protecting nature. Conwy and Denbighshire Public Services Board has committed to developing plans to safeguard food in the future, Monmouthshire have integrated food policies– from farm to fork – into their well-being plans, while Cardiff Council has developed a local Good Food Strategy and is aiming to become a Gold-standard Sustainable Food City.  Not-for-profit organisation Cae Felin Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is growing crops on land owned by Swansea Bay Health Board near Morriston Hospital, where staff volunteer towards a long-term goal of supporting preventative healthcare by growing fruit and vegetables for patient meals at the hospital, selling food boxes and also providing them for low income areas.

WWF has said the Well-being of Future Generations Act gives Wales the opportunity to adopt a leading role in the UK in developing food policies, within the wider UK context of Brexit and the severe challenges the UK food system faces.

Derek Walker said: “Food security is a major well-being issue that we can’t escape, and Wales needs a plan for people to have access to healthy, affordable food for generations to come. Food security must be a core part of a new food strategy for Wales that protects all of us in the face of continuing war, climate change and trade barriers against an already spiralling food poverty.

“We must look after the natural systems that provide our food – the most basic of human needs – and properly planning for how we’ll eat will also tackle some of Wales’ other big problems, while supporting our soils and clean water.

“I want to see a future where we grow the food that feeds our loved-ones in hospitals and schools.

“With innovative thinking, using the permission the Well-being of Future Generations Act gives us to do different things, involving farmers and other experts including community groups, changing the system to adapt to our shifting needs is possible.”

The commissioner’s seven-year strategy, Cymru Can, calls for better implementation of the Well-being of Future Generations Act and highlights food as a key challenge to unlock progress in achieving Wales’ well-being goals.

He says a food strategy could include:

  • A joined-up, national food resilience plan that involves promoting local food systems.
  • Improving local healthy food supply chains, building on examples such as Carmarthenshire Council which is working on a future generations school food menu made up of local and sustainably-sourced ingredients, or Food Sense Wales’s partnership with Castell Howell to increase the supply of vegetables to Cardiff primary schools from agroecological growers.
  • More support for Local Food Partnerships, such as in north Powys, where they are developing multi-stakeholder local food networks to address local food challenges.
  • Involving farmers and making the Sustainable Farming Scheme a key part of a national food strategy.
  • Putting restoring nature at the heart of everything we do in Wales, supporting a new generation of farming and enhancing community access to land, to increase production of the low amount of fruit and vegetables we grow and consume. The most deprived fifth of adults consume less fruit and vegetables (37% less), than the least deprived fifth, according to The Food Foundation.
  • Innovative approaches to rural and urban growing to promote more community food growing in Wales.
  • Ensuring the well-being plans that councils and other public bodies have to publish under the Act,  focus on food and healthy diets.

Duncan Fisher from Our Food 1200, said:

“Addressing food security unites interests across Wales – farming, food poverty; rural and urban – as demonstrated by the wide cross-sectoral interest in the meeting today. A food strategy must address the two big food issues of our time, food poverty and the future of our farming.’’