Access to good food for everyone: creating a healthier and more sustainable Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire residents should have better access to environmentally friendly, healthy, and affordable food according to recommendations of the National Food Strategy, launched last week.

The National Strategy is the first major review of the country’s food system in 75 years and spans across government and the entire food chain. The strategy contains a set of targeted recommendations, covering three main themes: support for our most disadvantaged children, health a wake-up call; and food sovereignty.

COVID-19 has exposed painful flaws in the UK Food System, especially its effect on the nation's physical and mental health. The strategy seeks to ensure that everybody had access to good, nutritional food while encouraging the country to be more self-sufficient.

Cllr Mark Gray, Cabinet Member for Local Communities, Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The evidence demonstrates that access to good, healthy food in early years helps to prevent health problems later in life. Hunger is also shown to affect the mental wellbeing of young people and their ability to learn. So, we very much welcome this new strategy here in Oxfordshire.

“In Oxfordshire, we are already working hard to develop initiatives to ensure that we can support more and more people in meeting their basic needs with our community food services and more.”

“It’s also clear that we need to do more as a community to be more self-sufficient. Not only for the environmental benefits, but to ensure that we continue to get all the good-quality produce that we all need, and to support our rural communities.”

Work has already started between Oxfordshire County Council, Good Food Oxford, local businesses, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, voluntary and community sector, catering providers, universities, and City and District Councils on making healthy and sustainable food a defining characteristic of living in Oxfordshire. 

Oxfordshire County Council has also committed to making the council carbon neutral by 2030 as part of its Oxfordshire Climate Action Declaration. 

Cllr Gray continued: “Food systems are currently responsible for 20% of Oxford’s greenhouse emissions – double that of cars in the city. We are actively looking to include food as part of the work to reduce carbon emissions and look forward to the next national food strategy report that proposes a blueprint for a greener food system – one that no longer makes us or our planet sick.” 

Another proposal in the strategy is to extend the Holiday Activity and Food Programme to all areas in England. Cherwell District Council already works with holiday activity providers and community groups to support young people by providing a free healthy lunch or snack with every activity. 

“This is a great model as we know our partners are trusted in the community and know our most vulnerable families. Alongside the lunches, we encourage community lunches and family meal bags where families can cook and learn new skills together. Play:Full is now in its third year and really embedded in the district” said Jon Wild, Community Development Manager at Cherwell District Council.

“We are currently in talks with other local authorities and organisations to share good practice and the Play:Full model which we are very proud of.”

Learn more about the National Food Strategy here.

More information

If you are struggling to afford or access food, find a community food service near you on this map. 

For everyone who wants to eat healthy, local, and good food, learn more from Good Food Oxford here.

Tips, ideas, and resources for families to help you cook, eat well, grow more, and waste less food, Oxfordshire Food Superstars can help. 

Replenish supports Oxfordshire residents to grow and cook nutritious food with zero waste. For information on home growing on a budget, composting at home and tips to save money on food bills read here.

If you want to help others in your community, get involved with local community groups taking climate action across Oxfordshire, including household repair cafes, community gardens, and community fridges, find out more here.