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Rob Kidd Food Policy Poster.pdf (6.29 MB)

Food policy coherence in local government: who does what and why?

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posted on 2024-04-11, 09:34 authored by Rob Kidd

Background: In the UK, food policy is often made by national government, but typically interpreted and implemented by councils. This research explores which local government functions are involved in food policy, how they work together and how coherent their policy positions are. It builds on earlier work to map the food policy actors at national government level and to understand local government’s many functions.

Methods: I conducted a literature review using search terms including ‘local authority’, ‘local government’, ‘food’ and ‘food policy’ across two academic databases: Scopus and Web of Science, plus results from Food Policy on Science Direct. The total number of papers identified and analysed was 99. I then conducted 30 semi-structured interviews with employees of local authorities and representative bodies covering the various functions of local government. I analysed the interviews using NVivo to highlight the themes, which included priority food policy issues for councils; local government functions and how they relate to each other; external stakeholders; and success factors.

Findings: Despite the high degree of complexity, fragmentation and granularity in local government, there appears to be a high degree of food policy coherence within and between individual councils. However, there is policy incoherence between central and local government, where a lack of national strategy and piecemeal approach to devolution have hindered councils’ efforts to improve the food system. Some functions of councils are particularly ‘joined up’, with good multi-function and multi-agency working arrangements in public health, trading standards, environmental health, economic development, planning and sustainability. Other functions, notably adult social care, markets and emergency planning, have been harder to engage, and interview responses suggest food policy is not a priority for these functions.

Conclusions: For food policy interventions in local government to be successful, they need to be accompanied by adequate long-term funding; a coalition of support; and to be seen as a priority by relevant stakeholders. Partnership arrangements provide good opportunities to make use of existing networks. Councils could do more to increase joint working between neighbouring organisations.

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