Herefordshire Food Charter. Healthy food for people, place and planet

8bb96a09 5953 496d a44c dd40502c082c smHerefordshire Food Alliance has written to all General Election candidates in Herefordshire to share the brilliant work that has already been achieved by this vibrant alliance, show the evidence for policy that supports partnerships across the UK and ask them what they'll be doing in the next Government to make it happen!  The full letter is below, with any responses we recieve.

Have a look at Sustain's 'Manifesto Tracker' - exploring "political party commitments on food and farming" and evaluates how these pledges align with the Sustain Manifesto 2024, with assessments provided by specialists in various themes such as farming, climate and public health.

... And a blog series - "If I were a Food Minister" from the group behind the Food Conversation.  It crops up again and again in conversations - what would YOU do if you were a Food Minister...? 

Our questions to candidates, and any replies received, are below.

Dear General Election Candidates for Herefordshire!

I am writing to you on behalf of Herefordshire Food Alliance. We are a network of groups, organisations and individuals working towards a thriving and sustainable local food economy – for healthy lives, communities and environment. We’re linked to Sustainable Food Places nationally and proud to say that Herefordshire as a county holds a Bronze Award.


The national network has topics ranging from supporting local enterprise to food waste, and collaboration.  They are huge, overlapping and interlinked - but then so is the food system.  Sustainable Food Places has six topics but we see it here in Herefordshire as seven, they are listed at the top of our blog on our website. This allows us to give farming the priority it deserves in this County. 

Food and farming have become ever more important issues over recent years. One in seven workers in the UK is employed in the food system which contributes over £120 billion to the UK economy. Food and farming are critical for our national security. However, almost half of fruit and veg farmers fear going out of business next year, one quarter of people in the UK are living with obesity that increases the risk of serious health issues, and farming is a leading cause of river pollution and biodiversity loss, whilst farmers committing to nature-friendly methods are struggling to make a living. Every one of these national issues affects us here in Herefordshire. 

  • Farm Herefordshire’s survey in 2023 showed that the majority of farmers are aware of the ‘excess phosphate’ issues Herefordshire faces, and willing to change farming practices – but a majority identified barriers, including finance, and land insecurity including planning issues, restrictions on their tenancies and landlords disengaged or unsupportive.
  • The Herefordshire Food Alliance has at least five frontline food poverty projects in its steering team, and increases in demand for their services are regularly reported at steering meetings. They also collectively work to make use of food surplus: in the last year alone they have redeployed well over 10 tonnes of chicken that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Creating a resilient food system must be a top priority in national policy, and we are approaching all candidates (who have contact details), inviting them to answer questions on this subject.

The responses will be publicly shared on our blog, and with the wider Sustainable Food Places network.

We’d like to thank you for your input into food issues locally, and our work and events - most recently the Ledbury Food Conversation  and, looking ahead to the Films Food and Farming events planned. .

We would welcome more conversation with you and your team on how you could build on this to support everyone in Herefordshire. For example we are connecting with other partnerships as part of the Marches Forward initiatives and your support to bring more revenue and recognition to this area would be welcome.  Our joint concept note will tell you more.

Our questions cover the areas that are most pertinent to our work right now - they don't cover everything, and we know you’re busy so please feel free to let us know your thoughts on just one or two. And if you want any other information about this vibrant, tasty network of amazing work in your area - please take a look at the website and be in touch!

You can sign the Herefordshire Food Charter here And stay in touch here

Thank you for your time.

Herefordshire Food Alliance

https://herefordshirefoodcharter.org.uk/about-the-alliance

 

Farming

A record number of farmers are at risk of going out of business, and are at the sharp end of unfair trading practices by supermarkets and food manufacturers. 

  1. What incentives will you champion as an MP for farmers and the big businesses who buy their food, to accelerate the transition to nature-friendly farming, grow our local food economy and ensure farmers are treated fairly?

Bill Wiggin Response: The Conservative Party is committed to supporting farmers in transitioning to producing food and managing their land in a sustainable way. The Conservative Government therefore replaced the EU's Common Agricultural Policy with Environmental Land Management Schemes which incentivise farmers to provide environmental goods and services and farm in a way which will help us achieve our environmental goals.

Sustainable Farming Incentives, which are one of the ELM schemes, pay farmers for actions which they take to manage their land in a way which is environmentally sustainable. In 2023, there were 23 actions on offer which farmers could be paid for undertaking relating to soil health, hedgerow management, providing food and habitats for wildlife, and managing pests and nutrients which contribute to the Government's environmental and sustainability targets. This was expanded in 2024 with 50 new paid actions and a 10 per cent increase in the average value of SFI agreements. In 2023, I held two roundtable meetings across North Herefordshire with representatives from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), DEFRA and the Forestry Commission to give farmers the opportunity to hear about Environmental Land Management Schemes and the grants available to them.

In England, nearly half of all farmers are now signed up to Environmental Land Management Schemes and we will continue to build on work to date to ensure our schemes work for all farmers. We have also pledged in our manifesto to increase the UK-wide farming budget by over £1 billion over the next Parliament and ensure that it rises with inflation every year, giving famers extra money to spend on grants to boost domestic food production and contribute to environmental aims.

We have also committed to improving public sector procurement to deliver our goal for at least 50% of food expenditure to be spent on food produced locally or to higher environmental production standards to ensure that food standards in schools, hospitals and other public institutions support local farmers and promote environmental and sustainable aims. 

The Conservatives will always stand up for farmers when negotiating new trade deals. At the 2023 UK Farm to Fork Summit, we set out our commitments to ensure UK farming is at the heart of UK trade. We will always look for the right deal for farmers and will continue to support UK agri-food and drink attachés in our embassies abroad, pioneering new markets and new opportunities for our domestic food and drink industry.

Climate and nature

Our rivers are in dire ecological state - pollution from intensive livestock is a leading cause. 

  1. What do you propose to do as an MP to clean up our rivers from this source of pollution? We have locally the Wye Manifesto which I’m sure you are aware of.

Bill Wiggin Response:The condition of the River Wye is a vitally important local issue and much of the blame is directed at farmers who are actually working hard to to mitigate the impacts of farming on the river by altering their practices.   I have worked with Avara Foods who, in 2023, made the landmark decision to ban the sale of chicken manure from their supply chain for use as a fertiliser in the Wye Catchment area, as part of their Sustainable Poultry Roadmap.     After I met with the Secretary of State twice earlier in the year, I was delighted with the Conservative Government's announcement of the River Wye Action Plan. The plan includes up to £35 million for on-farm poultry manure combustors which provide a source of renewable energy and convert manure to a nutrient rich ash which can then be transported out of the catchment to be used as fertiliser, and incentives for implementing buffer strips which prevent phosphates from entering the water course. The action plan also has appointed former MEP Anthea McIntyre as River Champion, a role which will see her head the new taskforce and bring together organisations and partners. I met with Anthea last month to discuss the plan and I look forward to working with her closely. I am hugely optimistic for our river's future and I am pleased that the Government committed such a comprehensive plan to solve the issue.

A long-waited reform of public sector food failed to materialise before the General Election. This is one of the areas we are finding hardest to crack here in Herefordshire – long contracts and opaque supply chains seem stacked against local, healthy food. Through a feasibility study back in 2023 we know the Marches areas needs support to monitor and identify actionable gaps, and synchronise our activity.

3) What will you do as an MP to ensure public sector food procurement for schools and hospitals drives healthier diets and support for low-carbon and nature-friendly farming?

Children

Healthy school meals introduce children to a lifetime of enjoyable food and sociability.

They also boost attainment and attendance, increase a child’s lifetime earnings, improve household food security, help families save on food costs, improve diet quality and help combat food related ill health such as diabetes and heart disease, saving the NHS money in the long term. What a huge number of wins this is. 

4) What will you do as an MP to ensure all children, regardless of their income or background, are able to have a healthy, nutritious meal every day in school?

Health

Everyone deserves to be healthy no matter where they live. We need our next government to make sure healthier food is the easiest, affordable option for everyone. We know that take-up of Healthy Start Vouchers in Herefordshire is low, leading to nearly £120,000 cash shortfall for families.

5) What action will you take as an MP to improve access to healthy and affordable food for everyone, such as through Healthy Start food vouchers for families, and incentives or rules for companies to switch away from producing and advertising unhealthy food?

Household food security

One in five households with children and almost half of households on Universal Credit reported experiencing food insecurity in 2024. However, our local authorities are cash strapped and Household Support Fund comes to an end in September 2024. 

6) What will you do as an MP to ensure that everyone has access to good food and ensure a long-term solution to local welfare support to help your constituents if they experience financial crisis?

Local action and food citizenship

Local authorities have experienced significant cuts to the public health grant and have limited capacity and powers to tackle unhealthy food advertising and prevalence of unhealthy food takeaways. 

7) As an MP, will you strengthen national planning policies and guidance to support the development of healthy food environments and support a food partnership and plan in every local area?

 

 

  1. What incentives will you champion as an MP for farmers and the big businesses who buy their food, to accelerate the transition to nature-friendly farming, grow our local food economy and ensure farmers are treated fairly?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Who we Are

The Herefordshire Food Charter is an initiative of the Herefordshire Food Alliance, a network of individuals and organisations from across the county involved in local, community and sustainable food action.

The Alliance is a member of the national Sustainable Food Places network and is co-ordinated by New Leaf Sustainable Development with support from Herefordshire Council and Sustainable Food Places.

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