Our 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 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 seventeen years ago alongside John and Allegra, but because we know that what we eat plays a huge part in our physical and mental health, and we're keen to find out his take on such an important subject.

Our thoughts on Part 1

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. 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 invited 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.

Our thoughts on Part 2

Away from children and to food choices more generally, and the salt and sugar tax that Part 2 of the report addresses. 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. We're happy to see Henry sharing his thoughts, which align with our own, on eating a more plant-based diet.

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.

We work closely with nutritionists to make sure that our menu offers options for everyone, whatever your requirements. We also use Children’s Food Trust guidelines to help create a balanced and nutritious children’s menu, keeping sugar, salt and saturated fat to a minimum.

We use a range of nutritional symbols to help you quickly identify the dishes we have on offer.

We don't use artificial sweeteners. Instead, we choose to offer brown sugar which guests can add to their hot drinks. Sugar and salt are two of the ingredients that we review frequently and those reviews form part of our future plans for reducing where we can.

All our nutritional figures on the menu pages are provided as guidelines. They are all correct to the best of our knowledge but may vary occasionally with ingredient provenance and seasonality.

Seasonality is important to us, as is sourcing responsibly and locally from farms that we trust. By celebrating seasonal UK produce, we are able to make sure that we reduce our impact on the environment, whilst packing our dishes with nutrient-full plants and better meat. You can read more about our plans to be carbon neutral by 2030 here.

Whilst Henry has had no input on LEON's decisions since he left our company seven years ago, the work that he is doing with The National Food Strategy raises an important discussion. Hopefully, it will provoke debate, as much as it is inviting input, and we are looking forward to more conversations to come.

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