Long-awaited government response to the National Food Strategy

What is the National Food Strategy?

In 2019, the Government commissioned a two-part interrogation into the food system in the UK.  

Part one was published in July 2020 and National Food Strategy part two was published in July 2021. 

The aim of the strategy was to set out a vision for a better food system, particularly with Brexit and the Covid pandemic.  

The principles of the strategy are aligned with the values of the Soil Association and Food for Life including: 

• healthy, safe and affordable food for all;  
• restore and enhance the natural environment; 
• build a resilient, sustainable and humane agriculture sector; 
• create a thriving food system that delivers social and economic benefits.  

How does Food for Life play a part? 

Food for Life has been praised throughout the strategy for our role in creating a food system that works for both nature and our health. 

"Beyond enforcing baseline standards, accreditation schemes are needed to raise the quality of food still higher. This is demonstrated by the Food for Life Served Here scheme. This framework for caterers monitors how food is sourced, cooked and promoted. Institutions are rigorously inspected to make sure they deserve the Food for Life mark of quality. Over 2 million meals are served each day to Food for Life standards, including in roughly 50% of English primary schools, over 50 NHS hospitals and over 50 universities.  Independent evaluation of the scheme has shown that for every £1 spent on local seasonal produce, £3 is generated in social, economic and environmental value in the local community." 

"The Government should require all schools to work with accreditation schemes such as Food for Life to improve school food and food education." 
Whether you are a caterer or a school, there are things that you can do to support the National Food Strategy. 

Recommendation 4.1: mandatory procurement guidelines to ensure public money is spent on healthy, sustainable food 
The strategy recommends that the government should redesign the Government Buying Standards for Food (GBSF) to ensure taxpayer money is spent on food that is both healthy and sustainable, with the revised standards mandated across the public sector, with monitoring of compliance. ‘Dynamic Food Procurement’ should also be rolled out nationally to support SMEs to gain access to catering markets.  

Food for Life is central to the strategy’s vision, with the recommendation that the government “should work with existing certifiers – such as Food For Life – to introduce a mandatory accreditation scheme for the food served in schools and hospitals.”  

Recommendation 1.3: investment in food education 
The strategy notes that schools have a legal requirement to teach cookery and nutrition to children up to the age of 14, aiming to “instil a love of cooking in pupils”, but the curriculum requirements are too rarely delivered. 
In response, the strategy recommends that cookery and nutrition lessons should be properly inspected by Ofsted with adequate guidance and research to improve teaching, and lesson outcomes taken as seriously as maths or English. There is a recommended £20m ‘Eat and Learn’ fund to support this and encourage innovation in schools to improve education and school food. 
Recommendation 2.2: extend holiday activities and food programme (HAF) over the next spending period (3 years) 
The government’s comprehensive spending review in Autumn 2020 included the NFS part one recommendation to extend the HAF programme to all areas in England, so that holiday support is available to all children in receipt of free school meals during the Christmas, Easter and Summer holidays. 
The spending review was only for the period 2020-2021. Part two has recommended that the government should extend HAF for at least the next three years, or until the next spending review.   

Recommendation 2.1: expand free school meal eligibility 
Part two of the strategy recommends expanding eligibility of free school meals to families whose pre-benefits income is less than £20,000 (in addition to the current eligibility requirements). This is a significant increase from the current £7,400 threshold and will likely support many more children and families experiencing food insecurity.The recommendation also expands eligibility to 16-18year olds. 
This new recommendation is less ambitious than in part one of the strategy which recommended expansion of eligibility to all families on universal credit (UC). The strategy argues that due to the huge numbers of families registering for UC over the pandemic, the initial recommendation is financially unfeasible, and this new threshold will be a realistic stepping stone. 

Read the full recommendations 


Food for Life is proud to work with schools, hospitals, universities and caterers.  get in touch with our team to be part of the solution to provide healthy and sustainable diets for all. 

Get in touch

Are you a caterer?

Speak to Caron today to get your Food For Life journey started.

Email: Clongden@soilassocation.org 

Tel: 07500 874048

Are you a School?

Speak to Gay today to get your Food For Life journey started.

Email: GDarke@soilassociation.org 

Tel: 01179874581

Amanda Donnelly - National Development Manager - Public Health