Our first thoughts on the National Food Strategy

At LEON our mission is to make it easier for everyone to eat well and live well, which is why we serve the Naturally Fast Food that tastes good, does you good and is kind to the planet. We have been following closely Henry Dimbleby’s work on the National Food Strategy, not only because he founded LEON sixteen years ago alongside John and Allegra, but because we know that what we eat plays a huge part in our physical and mental health each and every day and were keen to find out his take on such an important subject.

Leading the development of a food strategy for our country, that is fit for our changing times, is another brilliant thing Henry has done since leaving LEON in 2014.

It’s the first major review of the food system we all eat from every day, in 75 years.

A lot of their conversation centred around the importance of access to healthy meals for children, something that matters greatly to both John and Henry, who both learnt the importance of food as children, and it is what motivated them to devote almost two years to developing the School Food Plan, which. It was released in 2014 and played a big part in the government’s decision to offer universal free infant school meals in the UK.

At LEON, we have long advocated for children to learn about the joy of cooking through ‘Cook5’, a competition that invitesd children to prepare five meals from scratch and enter for the chance to win culinary prizes for themselves and their schools.

We are, therefore, ardent supporters of the Report’s proposal that free school meals are extended to all children in families receiving Universal Credit and the Holiday Activity and Food Programme to all areas of England, so that it touches all children receiving free school meals.

The emphasis of Part One of the report on the link between poverty and food poverty we thought was vital and we agree with the views shared by the brilliant organisation ‘Bags of Taste’ on this. Increasing the value and reach of Healthy Start vouchers, which help give parents, particularly mothers, and our youngest children, the chance to get good food basics is crucial. These vouchers help form the sort of healthy eating habits that can make all the difference in reaching healthy outcomes.

Away from children and to food choices more generally, how we make judgements on which foods are good for us and which aren’t, is a tricky topic. But our belief is simple: that food should be as natural as possible, and you should eat as wide a range of it as you can. We are disciples of Michael Pollen’s view “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” and you can read more on our food views here.

The debate around calories can muddy the conversation and, in truth, it’s hard to judge the quality of food on calories alone, as not all calories are equal. A lower calorie count might obscure the fact that some foods have a significant number of additives and preservatives, or high saturated fats. Calories are not the only yardstick. That’s why we champion transparency and the sharing of information about the food any business is serving and provide the full nutritional information of our meals online and in our restaurants.

It’s been a great start from Henry on the National Food Strategy, that will hopefully provoke debate as much as it is inviting input, and we are looking forward for more discussion to come. We’re talking about it on our Zoom calls, at our restaurant counters and in our kitchens at LEON and applaud Henry for the work so far. It’s not just important, it’s also urgent.

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