Our Food 1200 is launching a series of national conversations on food security, that bring together two key issues of our time: food poverty and the future of our farming. The conversations launch on Tuesday, April 16 with a Senedd event, Food Shocks: Is Wales ready for an unstable global food system? co-hosted by the Future Generations Commissioner. The series will continue through the year, with further conversations involving local governments, farmers, food poverty campaigners, food partnerships and others.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Food policy expert Professor Tim Lang of City University of London will present findings from his major report on food security, commissioned by the UK’s National Preparedness Commission. Professor Lang will explain that the UK, Wales included, is unprepared for future supply failures and spiralling food prices, which affect people on low incomes the most. These problems, which we are already experiencing are set to get worse with climate change, war and trade barriers.

Derek Walker, Future Generations Commissioner of Wales, will argue that these issues must be central to the new Welsh food strategy that he has proposed.

Huw Irranca-Davies MS, Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, will respond to Professor Lang, as will a cross-party panel of MSs.

Prof Lang will explain that a vital part of building food security is to diversify our sources of food, so we are less dependent on a highly centralised global wholesale and supermarket system. New, more local supply chains are needed, so that our cities are more substantially fed from the farms in their rural hinterlands. There needs to be a renaissance of fruit and vegetable farming providing the basics of our diet. These are big opportunities for Welsh farming.

Prof Lang will also argue that preparations need to be made for emergencies, to reduce panic buying and to ensure those on low incomes can continue to eat. Other countries are doing this. Canada and Germany are drafting comprehensive food plans that address resilience. France requires cities to have a plan to feed their populations from their rural hinterlands. Latvia and Sweden have total defence plans for emergencies, with information for all citizens. Sweden advises every household to have an emergency stock of food and water. And Lithuania and Switzerland have national food reserves/stockpiles.

Duncan Fisher, a director of Our Food 1200, said: “Addressing food security unites interests across Wales – farming, food poverty; rural and urban – as demonstrated by the wide cross-sectoral interest in Tuesday’s meeting. A food strategy must address the two big food issues of our time, food poverty and the future of our farming.”

Derek Walker said: “Food security is a major well-being issue that we can’t escape, and Wales needs a plan for people to have access to healthy, affordable food for generations to come. Food security must be a core part of a new food strategy for Wales that protects all of us in the face of continuing war, climate change and trade barriers against an already spiralling food poverty. 

“We must look after the natural systems that provide our food – the most basic of human needs – and properly planning for how we’ll eat will also tackle some of Wales’ other big problems, while supporting our soils and clean water.  

“I want to see a future where we grow the food that feeds our loved-ones in hospitals and schools.

“With innovative thinking, using the permission the Well-being of Future Generations Act gives us to do different things, involving farmers and other experts including community groups, changing the system to adapt to our shifting needs is possible.” 

The commissioner’s seven-year strategy, Cymru Can, calls for better implementation of the Well-being of Future Generations Act and highlights food as a key challenge to unlock progress in achieving Wales’ well-being goals. 

He says a food strategy could include: 

  • A joined-up, national food resilience plan that involves promoting local food systems. 

  • Improving local healthy food supply chains, building on examples such as Carmarthenshire Council which is working on a future generations school food menu made up of local and sustainably-sourced ingredients, or Food Sense Wales’s partnership with Castell Howell to increase the supply of vegetables to Cardiff primary schools from agroecological growers. 

  • More support for Local Food Partnerships, such as in north Powys, where they are developing multi-stakeholder local food networks to address local food challenges.  

  • Involving farmers and making the Sustainable Farming Scheme a key part of a national food strategy. 

  • Putting restoring nature at the heart of everything we do in Wales, supporting a new generation of farming and enhancing community access to land, to increase production of the low amount of fruit and vegetables we grow and consume. The most deprived fifth of adults consume less fruit and vegetables (37% less), than the least deprived fifth, according to The Food Foundation. 

  • Innovative approaches to rural and urban growing to promote more community food growing in Wales.  

  • Ensuring the well-being plans that councils and other public bodies have to publish under the Act,  focus on food and healthy diets.