New food strategy aims to make the county more affordable, resilient and sustainable

Oxfordshire County Council is continuing in its vision to make the county a greener, fairer, and healthier place by implementing a new food strategy.

The proposed new strategy has been developed in partnership with organisations including Good Food Oxfordshire, district and city councils, community groups, local farmers and other food businesses, to improve Oxfordshire’s food system and make it more sustainable, affordable and resilient.

The plans will be going to the council’s cabinet for approval on 24 May and will be adopted by colleagues in district and city councils over the coming months.

Councillor Mark Lygo, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, said: “Around nine to 14 per cent of our population in Oxfordshire experience food insecurity. The ongoing cost of living crisis means households are facing an average hit of £1,200 to their incomes this year alone. This is disproportionately affecting lower-income homes, with some of the biggest price rises being seen in value ranges and basic items. 

“On top of this, food systems contribute to around 40 per cent of greenhouse emissions. And for example, just one per cent of our food in Oxford comes directly from a local source (51 per cent of the county’s food comes from within the UK, while 48 per cent comes from the EU and beyond).

“Food production plays a vital role in our local economy. Our food economy accounts for one in 10 jobs, and is responsible for 10 per cent of our local economy as a whole. Money spent in local food shops, cafes and production also supports three times as many jobs as the same equivalent spent in national chains.

“A local food strategy will help us develop a localised, sustainable food system. This will help ensure that healthy and sustainable food is affordable and accessible for everyone, help to meet our climate and sustainability targets and improve our food supply resilience. 

“We are proud to be leading the way in becoming one of the first local authorities in England to implement a local food strategy, and this is central to our key priority of tackling inequality across the county. We couldn’t have done this without partnership working so I am really proud that this strategy has been developed with Good Food Oxfordshire and our city and district partners”

Fiona Steel, Good Food Oxfordshire, said: “We are delighted that our local councils have embraced the food strategy and are committed to improving our local food systems. Across Oxfordshire we have an amazing array of community groups, growers and other food businesses, who are committed to a fairer, healthier and more sustainable food system for Oxfordshire. We have a long way to go but we are already pointing in the right direction and working together we can make a real and lasting difference.  We are looking forward to working with local areas to develop food action plans that benefit all members of our communities.”

In 2021, the National Food Strategy stressed the need for local areas to develop their own localised food strategies to tackle the ongoing fragility of food systems in the UK, affordability and the environmental and health impacts of the food we eat.

This is the first phase of the strategy and over the next six months we will be working with the community to develop action plans to deliver our ambitions in the strategy.

The strategy supports the county council’s strategic plan, which sets out its vision to create a greener, fairer and healthier county. It will be delivered through the development of an action plan in each of Oxfordshire’s districts.

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