London Borough of Camden Council and NHS Camden (the local primary care trust (PCT)) have prepared ‘Good food for Camden: the healthy and sustainable food strategy 2009 to 2012'. Camden's Good Food Partnership has 178 member organisations and individuals, and has been instrumental in both informing and delivering the strategy.
Key learnings for other councils
Developing a programme of work on food that aims to reduce health inequalities and increase environmental sustainability at the same time needs the expertise of, and cooperation between, the PCT and council. So high-level commitment was critical.
Another important factor in the success of Camden's strategy has been the links it developed through this process with the community sector and setting up the Good Food Partnership.
However, it has taken time for people working at the community level to own the strategy. It wasn't until the strategy was launched (October 2009) that people began to view the partnership as something more than a useful network.
Camden's Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) identified the potential for a food strategy to help reduce health inequalities in the borough. For example, male life expectancy varies by more than a decade between different wards.
It also saw this as an opportunity to improve environmental sustainability by doing things like reducing carbon emissions. This was by minimising the distance that food is transported from where it is grown and produced to the borough.
This endorsement at a senior level led to officers at the local primary care trust (PCT) and Camden Council (‘the partners') jointly developing a healthy and sustainable food strategy for the borough.
The problem and how it was tackled
The LSP has identified four priority wards (out of 18) where it is focusing extra effort and resources on improving health to reduce health inequalities. Andrea Pruscino is healthy workplace dietician and a key staff member for implementing the strategy. She says that tackling health inequalities, especially reducing levels of overweight and obesity, "was one of the main drivers for putting together the strategy."
Camden Council recognised the importance of engaging with residents on the topic of food and in particularly food growing. There is significant and increasing demand for community food growing spaces. Camden's allotments are at capacity and developing new sites was a key goal.
The council also wanted to use the food strategy to help achieve national indicator (NI) targets on reducing waste (NI191 - residual household waste per household) and carbon emissions (NI 186 - percentage CO2 reduction from local authority operations).
NHS Camden commissioned the organisation Sustain to build up a profile of what was already happening at a community level. Rosie Blackburn from Sustain was one of the people who spoke with local organisations in Camden. She built up a profile of what was going on in the borough.
"What we were doing touched a lot of nerves… people wanted to tell us how there is this health inequality in Camden, how this needs to be addressed, how there aren't enough shops selling the right stuff. People are reliant on fairly rubbish corner shops that sell mouldy oranges and spongy apples."
Officers from the PCT and the council were and are heavily involved in the Good Food Partnership. They also convened cross-departmental consultation meetings to make sure that people in both organisations. This was to ensure people knew the strategy was being developed and that it reflected the work they were already doing.
This background work led to the partners establishing the Good Food Partnership. This is a network of organisations (currently 178) that informed the development of the strategy and is now helping to deliver it.
- puts reducing health inequalities at the centre of food policy in the borough makes clear
- links between health and sustainability and food procurement, consumption and production
- sets out how the borough can reduce waste and carbon emissions.
Outcomes and impact
The strategy was launched in October 2009. One of the notable projects that it has either catalysed or promoted is a revised tender specification for the schools food procurement contract. This will be procured jointly with neighbouring Islington Council. It includes health and sustainability criteria including:
- improving nutritional standards
- using fairly traded sources
- documenting and reducing carbon emissions associated with providing food in schools.
There is also a schools food growing and education programme in the four priority wards. This includes a range of initiatives such as providing:
- healthy eating training for school staff and parents
- information on sustainability and food for the school curriculum - prepared by council staff
- food growing in schools and support and skills for this - from the Capital Growth fund.
Also included is a project to improve the amount and quality of fresh food in two convenience stores in the priority wards: NHS Camden is funding London's Buywell programme, which aims to increase sales of fruit and vegetables by improving:
- its quality
- where it is located in the shop
- how it is stored and displayed.
This is building on the successful pilot project in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
There is also a plan to increase food growing in the priority wards. There is considerable enthusiasm for food growing in these (and other) areas, but space is very limited. The council is aiming to improve this by, for example, making some public space areas available for growing food. The authority's Healthy Communities team also provides residents with support and advice.
The Good Food Partnership continues to meet. It is becoming more independent of the council and the PCT. It has recently established a core group whose membership reflects the different themes of the strategy.
Having a strategy that spells out the links between healthy and sustainable food has helped people understand these connections in practice.
Take the revised contract to supply food in schools. David Wilson, Sustainability Officer at Camden Council, reports that sustainability aspects "might not have been considered" as part of revising the school food contract. But having a document that demonstrated the links with health, "…has brought it all together for people".
The contract now specifies Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fish (from a sustainable source) and other ingredients that should be fairly traded or ethically sourced. This is a huge benefit for improving the overall sustainability of what is supplied and an example of how the strategy has been implemented down to a very detailed level.
Suppliers will also need to monitor carbon emissions and waste generated as part of fulfilling their contractual obligations. This will help the council to monitor whether it is achieving its own targets to reduce overall levels of carbon and waste.
The inclusion of targets on MSC-sourced fish and other accredited schemes is one example of how the strategy has been integrated down to a very detailed level. The school food contract will be renewed in 2011/12 and will last for at least five years.
The PCT has also made sure that the strategy's emphasis on reducing health inequalities is written into the contract. This is by setting nutritional standards that the supplier will need to meet, based on the national standards set by the Department for Education (DoE) and other standards stipulated by the boroughs.
The strategy has also helped to facilitate new energy and connections in the third sector. The partnership has put organisations in touch which share similar values and aspirations, but which previously did not know each other existed.
It is also having a direct impact on the ability of some of these organisations to get funding. According to Wilson, feedback suggests that some funding bids "…wouldn't have been able to get off the ground without linking into the strategy… having it there has really tipped the balance."
NHS Camden funded developing the strategy. The total amount has been £198,000, which includes approximately £30,000 for the funding of various projects such as school food growing training and the Buywell project.
Facilitating this ownership is crucial for the longer-term success of the strategy, which will rely on the partnership for much of its implementation. This is especially so in light of the likely funding cuts to the public sector. Strategies will need to demonstrate how they can help to meet strategic commitments, such as reducing carbon emissions or tackling obesity.
Contacts and links
London Borough of Camden
Telephone: 020 7974 3410
Email: [email protected]
Healthy Workplace Dietician
Telephone: 020 3317 3561
Email: [email protected]
Good Food for Camden strategy - on the Camden NHS website