London, I love you. Our capital has the most vibrant food culture on the planet. Food is part of our beating heart, in a city that’s home to 30,000 food businesses worth over £20bn, and where one in four Londoners has a job linked to food.
2017 marks fifteen years since I opened my first restaurant, Fifteen, and I did it here in London – where else! Food brings prosperity to London, it strengthens our communities, it lets us express our creativity and it sustains and binds our cultures. London’s food is a wonderful and powerful thing.
But here’s the problem – we’re not consistent. Our city’s food environment is also compromising our health, shortening our kids’ life-expectancy, reducing productivity, costing taxpayers billions of pounds, crippling our healthcare service, and widening the gap between the least and most disadvantaged people in our society.
It’s time for us to do something together – it’s time to make a difference.
This is about working in our own backyard before we look further afield. It’s about harnessing the incredible creative, influential, passionate minds in our city and giving business owners, consumers, schools and communities the tools to make a difference. It’s about using the powers we have, to their full potential. At the same time, the UK government needs to do all it can to support London to up its game.
Right now, Londoners don’t have enough clarity about the way our food is made, sold, advertised or marketed. And that’s why we’re in trouble.
The ideas I’ve put together below – some big, some small – are about giving us true choice, not imposing limits. We’re not building a dam, we’re simply changing the quality of the water.
Crucially, London needs to make it easier and cheaper for its businesses to sell healthy food so that consumers have a choice. We’re seeing this happen in other cities – take the deputy mayor’s brilliant policies in Amsterdam, which saw a 12% drop in the rate of childhood obesity. This is totally achievable, come on Sadiq, let’s make sure London is next!
This letter calls on Sadiq, the Mayor of London, to put food at the heart of his health inequalities strategy. He has a real opportunity to change the way Londoners eat, cook, sell, buy, advertise and enjoy food. For Good.
I hope you guys will help me make some noise! Please tweet and post this to show the Mayor of London that food should be at the heart of all health policy.
@MayorOfLondon I care about the health of Londoners PLS put food at the heart of your policy ideas for the future #FeedTheCity
Come on guys – let’s do this!
Jamie’s Plan to Combat Childhood Obesity in London
MARKETING & ADVERTISING
Transport for London has one of the world’s most valuable advertising estates. We have a proper opportunity here to ensure our buses, tubes and taxis are healthy spaces. Kids’ brains are impressionable and they need better protection from unhealthy ads. Just as TfL kick-started the fight against tobacco ads 30 years ago, the Mayor can do the same with junk food (which is second only to smoking as the cause of preventable cancer).
- Use the brilliant ‘poems on the underground’ model and advertise clever, tasty ideas or recipes for a healthy dinner, on the tube. The Mayor could use TFL’s vacant advertising inventory to ensure 2% of its advertising estate relays a healthy eating message. Me and my food team are bursting with ideas for this!
- Establish ‘safe zones’ around schools, and the bus routes that serve them, which are free of junk food adverts. In fact, the rise of digital billboards allows the Mayor to make the school run a whole lot easier by banning junk food adverts during key times (e.g. 8-9am and 3-4pm).
- Make sure City Hall’s sponsorship guidelines keep children’s events in London free of junk food messaging.
LEVIES & TAXATION
Imagine how quickly food businesses would change their ways if the tax system incentivised it – let’s give financial benefits to people who offer a balanced (well labelled) menu, presenting a proper choice between healthy and unhealthy food.
A really important first step would be for London to create a proper definition of a healthy restaurant. Just as the UK has a ‘nutrient profiling model’ to identify junk food – London needs a definition that identifies healthy and unhealthy restaurants. This would get us really focused on how to target good and bad behaviour.
- Create a new definition that underpins the way London taxes, licenses, and regulates unhealthy restaurants. Let’s make London’s high streets an engine of health, transformed by the health-based provision of business-rates discounts, low-interest loans and disused retail space.
- Following France’s lead, place a levy on junk food adverts to fund a perpetual marketing campaign for fruit, veg and home cooking.
BALANCED HIGH STREETS
Our high streets offer a very limited choice, especially to teenagers. Think of chicken shops alone. There are 8,622 fast food restaurants in London – one for every 1,000 residents. They cluster around schools, and sell junk to kids. By allowing this boom we’re threatening our children’s health.
- Restrict new fast food outlets from setting up shop within close proximity to London’s primary and secondary schools.
- Install water fountains around the city to give a free and greener alternative to sugary drinks.
- London to grow its very own fruit and veg ‘belt’ by planting more fruit trees and using planning regs to create more vegetable plots.
- Using the necessary definition of a healthy restaurant (above), London could lay out the business practices expected of newly licensed food outlets (labelling, portion size, cooking oil, healthy options).
Our kids eat at school 190 days of the year, there’s no way they should be fed junk! Plus, learning about food in the classroom is the best way to help the next generation make responsible, healthy choices – for life.
- School canteens become Britain’s best-loved restaurant chain, serving healthy, affordable food to kids every school-day. Croydon has achieved great things employing a School Food Employment Officer.
- Instigate a celebrity-backed, mayoral competition to celebrate schools that are doing amazing things with food in their classrooms, canteens and playgrounds,
- Use the Mayor’s Fund to match-fund those working to eliminate holiday hunger, provide school breakfast clubs and to achieve Gold Accreditation in the Healthy Schools London Scheme
One of the best ways to get kids healthy is if their family network is healthy.
- London’s businesses ensure their employees have a chance to eat great food during every shift. Day or night. This is especially important for those who work overnight in hospitals.
What gets measured gets done. We need to find new, progressive ways to track the cause of our food and eating habits across the board. New tech and strong leadership will be key to implementing the urgently needed steps that will protect our kids from the bleak future they currently face.
Westminster’s obesity plan is as flimsy as they come. We need the Government to raise its game and deliver a powerful child obesity strategy for the whole country. One thing this must do is give local leaders the authority they need to deliver on their own patch.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of London has the power to show how it’s done with a package of policies equipped with targets, data, and statistics to prove categorically what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to be done better. So come on Sadiq, we believe you’ve got this!