Dreaming About the 21st Century Food Policy: Unthinkable!

21 December 2016

Smoke-free buses, hospitals, or pubs were a wild, unthinkable idea forty years ago. Yet, today the opposite is unthinkable. Big dreams change the world.

The 12th of December 2016 was a day to dream big at the 2016 City Food Symposium in London. A day of reflection on the past and the future of food policy, over thirty speakers, reasons to be depressed, reasons to be cheerful, effortless networking, comedy, drama, stories of lost battles and of success, all concluded with a festive cup of mulled wine.

Where did we come from? What is the future? Fragmentation and the weak state of food policy, issues with governance and inadequate leadership all add to the challenge, as food policy goes far beyond food. But we know that change is possible and it is already on the map - health and food movements are growing around the globe. There are more alliances of civil society and research, even industry is making progress.

Prof Corrina Hawkes, the host of the meeting, encouraged everyone to work hard to ‘connect the dots’ in the food system, integrate public and private aspects of food policy and ensure that sustainability comes hand in hand with food security in the more inclusive food policy.

If there was a main motive of this meeting, it was the importance of people’s voices. The value of lived experience, seen both as expertise and evidence, and a unique insight, were stressed many times during the day. The co-production of solutions seems to be the only way to create a strong and effective food policy that can make a change.

2060. Summer. Scotland. A family enjoys Sunday afternoon in a local park. A little girl runs up to her parents and hands them an apple picked from one of the trees, happily announcing: “For you”! Her dad smiles, looks to the girl’s mother and recalls: “My father spent most of his childhood in front of the screen, only ate chocolate flakes for breakfast and thought apples were made by robots in supermarkets!” The girl’s mother looks at him: “Unthinkable!”