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Peter Melchett: A true campaigner

Peter Melchett

We are so saddened by the death of Peter Melchett, Policy Director at the Soil Association and co-founder of Food for Life.

Peter has been Policy Director at the Soil Association for 18 years and such an important, charismatic figure in the environment, organic movement and campaign for improved food for young people throughout his lifetime.

In an earlier interview for the Soil Association Peter spoke about how proud he was of his work achieved through the Food for Life  programme:

‘The Soil Association has played the key role in transforming the food that young people in the UK eat in schools, and when they go out for a meal on the high street. This work, called Food for Life, was inspired by a school cook, Jeanette Orrey, who came to us in 2003 when school meals were in a spiral of decline – forced to go for the lowest price, quality and take-up were plummeting, just as the horrendous problems of childhood malnutrition and obesity were becoming apparent. Jeanette inspired us to start a campaign. Despite huge initial opposition, with Jamie Oliver's help, we got junk food like turkey twizzlers banned from schools, and new school meals standards introduced. Our own healthy, environmentally friendly and locally sourced standards, Food for Life Served Here, now cover 1.7 million meals daily, in nurseries, schools including over half the primary schools in England, universities, hospitals, care homes, visitor attractions and workplaces.’

Alongside his Soil Association role, he ran his family’s  890-acre organic farm in Norfolk, with cattle, sheep and arable crops. He was an extraordinary man with incredible knowledge across a wide range of subjects, ranging from beef farming to sustainable cosmetics!

In his earlier life, he was a Labour government minister from 1974-79, at the Departments of Environment, Industry, and Northern Ireland (covering education and health). He was president or chair of several conservation NGOs, director of Greenpeace UK (1985-2000), and chaired Greenpeace Japan (1995-2001).

He was a member of the BBC's Rural Affairs Committee; the Department of Education's School Lunches Review Panel; the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Rural Climate Change Forum and the Organic Action Plan Group. He was a special lecturer in biological sciences at Nottingham University from 1984 until 2002, and on the board of the EU £12m research project 'Quality Low Input Food' from 2004-2009, and has worked as an environmental consultant.

A true campaigner all his days, he will be greatly missed by all his Soil Association and Food for Life colleagues.