24 May 2017 Guest Blog: Two London boroughs first to sign declaration on sugar and healthy food
Sofia Parente is Campaigns Coordinator at Sustain. Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming represents around 100 national public interest organisations. Our campaigns are contributing to protect children’s health, save the fish in our seas, making our cities healthier, improving hospital food, helping sustainable farmers, saving our antibiotics and help the rise of Real Bread. In the capital, our London Food Link network runs and partners on policy initiatives, campaigns and practical projects that improve the food system. For more information please visit https://www.sustainweb.org/
Diet related conditions, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease, are some of the greatest health problems facing the UK today. The problems are even worse in London, where one in three children are overweight or obese by the time they start secondary school. In total more than 3.8 million Londoners are overweight or obese.
Urgent action is needed at all levels to promoter healthy eating and sugar reduction. The Local Government Declaration on Sugar Reduction and Healthier Food is promoted by Sustain to help London local authorities tackle the proliferation and marketing of unhealthy food and drinks under their control or influence. To sign the declaration the local authority has to commit to take at least six different actions across six key areas and report on progress annually.
The six key areas:
- Tackle advertising and sponsorship
- Improve the food controlled or influenced by the council
- Reduce prominence of sugary drinks and promote free drinking water
- Support businesses and organisations to improve their food offer
- Public events
- Raise public awareness
The idea for a local declaration arose out of the East London ‘Growth Boroughs’ ‘Healthier Children Healthier Place’ programme established to share learning and good practise on developing a whole systems approach to tackling child obesity. The inspiration then came from the work of Food Active in the North West that culminated in the Blackpool Local Government Declaration on Healthy Weight. Following a tender process, the East London councils then commissioned Sustain as an independent organisation to run the project, from consulting with key stakeholders on the content of the declaration to promoting it to the majority of London local authorities. Food Active supported the development.
The initiative was launched at City Hall in November 2016. Since then many London local authorities are making progress to identify their actions under the six key areas of action. Lambeth and Tower Hamlets are the first two to have signed the declaration in April 2017.
Lambeth Council pledges to restrict unhealthy advertising, promote the uptake of Healthy Start Vouchers starting at Brixton market, have healthier food and drinks at Council events, promote a voluntary sugary drinks levy to local businesses and continue the ‘Feel 100%’ social media campaign targeting local young people. Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group is co-signatory, underpinning the commitment of the NHS to work in partnership to tackle obesity in the borough.
Tower Hamlets has some of the highest rates of tooth decay and child obesity in the country. Tower Hamlets Council pledges to tackle advertising and sponsorship, bringing in a voluntary sugary drinks levy on sales at council-run canteens and offering healthy choices at public events, alongside healthy food in schools being further encouraged. More and more stall-holders selling fresh produce in East End markets like Whitechapel and Poplar’s Chrisp Street have been signing up to the council’s ‘food for health’ award scheme launched two years ago and the Council pledges to continue to increase this number.
For more details on the Local Government Declaration on Sugar Reduction and Healthier Food initiative visit: https://www.sustainweb.org/londonfoodlink/declaration/