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BOOKS Feeding Britain: Our Food Problems and How to Fix Them

An unarguable case for food self-sufficiency

BRITAIN has a serious, yet largely hidden, food security problem — it doesn’t feed itself. Growing about only half of what is requiredd to meet our needs, we are so far from the self-sufficient good life that if the food system was a bank, it would be bankrupt.

In this book, Tim Lang explores this “dangerous insecurity” within our food system and denounces Britain's imperial tradition of assuming that others will provide for us. This country's yawning trade gap in foodstuffs was £24 billion in 2017 and we’re experiencing a dramatic decline in native production.

Fruit and vegetable cultivation could, and should, be increasing, but only 12 per cent of the fruit we consume is currently grown here.

We have been led into a false sense of security about our food. The default practices of recent governments, leaving everything in the hands of the Tescos of this world, have merely kicked our food-system problems further down the road to ruin.

Enjoying full supermarket shelves and historically cheap, highly subsidised and plentiful food has only been achieved with an ecologically and socially unsustainable footprint.

We have the highest rate of ultra-processed foods in Europe and we’re awash with foods that aren’t doing us or the environment any good. Poor diets have become the norm and we’re growing physically fatter, suffering a rise in food poverty and enduring more diet-related ill health.

Britain is certainly not taking back control of how and where we get our food from. Policymakers seem to have lost sight of the essential roles that diet, land use, fairness and sustainability play in ensuring food security. Britain cannot go on eating as it is without undermining our own interests.

As the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union launches its report demanding the right to decent food for every citizen, Feeding Britain provides another thought-provoking call to action.

Lang’s extended manifesto recognises that Britain’s food system reinforces the class divides that normalise systemic failure through foodbanks. His proposals would narrow social inequalities, ban  advertising of unhealthy food, slash food waste, reduce food miles and reshape our high-fat, sugary, salty and meat-based diets.

The long-term route to food security cannot be outsourced. Our problems will only be cured when the food system is made fairer for everyone, involves input from all its stakeholders and has an environmentally and economically sustainable basis.

Published by Pelican, £12.99.

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