The Square Meal Debate,

Dorset Food Week 2015

Why we need a new recipe for farming, wildlife, food and public health.

The Square Meal Debate posed an important question: how can we work together to develop a healthy food system? Healthy for everyone who eats, for the farmers and food sector workers who produce, distribute, retail and cook our food and for the countryside where food production takes place?

Read the Square Meal Debate Report here.

Watch the Square Meal Debate Film:

CLS in Dorset brought the Square Meal Debate to Dorchester to push these issues into the public eye. It challenged us to identify what needs to be done to provide healthy, affordable and environmentally sustainable food for all in a way that properly rewards farmers and allows the industry to thrive. This will require leadership, political will and much greater consumer awareness of the need for sustainable diets to protect our health, the environment and the economy.

Summary of the event:

Over 100 people participated in workshops and debate about the ‘Square Meal’ at Dorset’s premier agricultural teaching centre. Delegates were considering the need and opportunities for integrated food and farming policy and practice that also embraces health and wildlife.  The panel of national speakers from Soil Association, RSPB, along with Dorset-based representatives of the National Farmers Union, Landworkers Alliance and Bournemouth and Poole Sustainable Food Cities, sparked lively audience questions. 

The main points arising included the need to lead and educate by example in all aspects of life and the community. In particular we need information and education for all consumers about the real price of food – i.e. the cost to the natural environment and wildlife. If we educate and incentivise all along the food chain, and encourage people to buy local, there will be greater understanding that local food can be affordable and available to all. We need to normalise a diet that is healthy for people and planet alike; and this will also save the NHS resources.

The event called for policy change and drivers to help expand local food systems, such as supporting the distribution of local produce, subsidies for organic fruit and vegetable growing, local planning policy changes in order to promote healthy eating businesses and outlets, and local procurement policies to enable hospitals and schools to use local and healthy foods.

There is much that can be done at a local level. Cllr. Rebecca Knox, made commitments to put these issues, including diet and procurement, to Dorset’s Health and Wellbeing Board, of which she is Chair. CLS in Dorset partners will follow up on the issues raised, and many participants are keen to continue to be involved in taking forward the Square Meal Debate.

Did you know?

– 33% of under 18’s in the UK are overweight or obese.

– 913,138 people were provided with three days emergency food across the UK by the Trussell Trust alone in the year to March 2014.

– 75% of the protein fed to our livestock in the EU is imported.

– 25% of all UK farmers live in poverty.

– In less than 50 years we have lost over 44 million pairs of breeding birds


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