Fruit and vegetables on the NHS

 

Last week we saw the launch of the National Food Strategy, an independent proposal to the government outlining how a healthier diet could support in building up the immunity of individual citizens. One of the recommendations was providing a fruit and vegetable prescription on the NHS. Those with obesity are far more likely to catch and die from COVID 19. So there’s a need to act now! However the UK government doesn’t exactly have the best track record for delivering these types of initiatives with free school meals falling woefully short. 

 

If the UK government is to follow through on this strategy, it needs to show support for local farmers. It needs to help them produce what is needed for a healthy diet, at a reasonable cost, allowing the most vulnerable in society to have access to fresh produce. The way we farm, the food we eat, the conservation of nature, our physical health, and our mental health are all linked. It is a complex problem and last week the Prince of Wales spoke out about this challenge: 

 

“…only by benefiting nature can we benefit people. This is the only way of ensuring the future of our living planet.”

 

It is time for government to take a more active stance in subsidising food production and highlighting the hidden costs behind intensive agriculture which most of our diets depend on. The hidden costs add up to the negative impact current agricultural practices are having on soil, air quality, biodiversity, water systems and how all this activity impacts our health and our immunity levels. Corporates also have a responsibility to launch brands and products that make healthier eating affordable, tasty, and convenient. Making healthy choices should be as easy if not easier than making unhealthy ones.

 

Prescribing fresh fruit and veg on the NHS comes with complexity and needs to be led by organisations who are used to delivering value to citizens. Food can always be sourced more cheaply but, the hidden costs will be far greater and the true price will ultimately be paid by the environment and those with the least resources. 

 

Co-operation between corporates and governments is needed. Governments need to provide subsidies to farmers to make healthier food affordable. Corporates and brands are ideally placed to deliver a viable solution. The brands that do step forward to lead with transparency will benefit from increased customer loyalty, operate a more sustainable business, and be seen as champions of a healthier planet for all.