You can’t eat training: Manchester Food Board relies on individual behaviour change at Health Scrutiny meeting

The Health scrutiny’s food and climate change item shows promise, but the Food Board needs to use every tool at its disposal to counteract national trends. Our briefing note, published today, gets into the details.

Chopping board with cakes on
Not this kind of food board, sadly.

The food situation in the UK right now is dire. Food insecurity is rising rapidly and the Government’s food strategy programme is a shambolic mess that won’t even begin to address the problems. We’re in a massive heatwave and some parts of the country haven’t seen rain in weeks, threatening crops and gardens alike. It’s a particularly timely moment for the Health scrutiny committee to be looking at the intersections of food, climate change and health.

Today we’re launching a briefing note, for councillors and citizens alike to understand the issues and feed into the debate.

There’s some good stuff in this report. The fact that the Health scrutiny committee is discussing climate change again is a good sign in itself. Back in February they pledged to look at climate change and health on a quarterly basis, and this was reflected in the work programme, with this item the first of several. It’s also a significant improvement in the quality of reporting over the food item at the Environment and Climate Change scrutiny meeting in January, which reviewed a newsletter. Hopefully this will allow the scrutiny to also be a higher quality.

There’s also plenty to scrutinise and improve too. A lot of the Manchester Food Board strategy relies on training for individuals and groups, rather than pulling the transformative levers that the council has access to. For example, Manchester City Council owns and maintains seven water features and zero drinking water fountains. It’s no good teaching people that they shouldn’t buy bottled water without providing easy access to fill water bottles. 

There is only one recommendation, which is to note the report. We believe the scrutiny committee can go further, and have prepared our own recommendations.

Our recommendations:

  1. Provide more ambitious food waste collection services and free compost bins for residents
  2. Investigate the possibility of bringing school meals back in house
  3. Ensure the new Local Plan contains a firm commitment to growing spaces 
  4. Offer business rate reliefs for those selling healthy and sustainable food
  5. Make healthy, sustainable food a requirement for market traders and events
  6. Increase the number of public water fountains, to save on packing and help keep residents safe during heatwaves
  7. Maintain an accessible Manchester food map
  8. Provide community food and growing groups with a clear point of contact at the Manchester Food Board.

You can read the briefing note here

You can watch the meeting tomorrow at 10am (online, in a cool place) here

And get in touch with us at or @ClimateEmergMcr

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