Rethinking food policy: A fresh approach to policy and practice

Centre for Food Policy, City University of London
Brief 1: Kelly Parsons, Corinna Hawkes
Brief 2: Kelly Parsons, Corinna Hawkes and Rebecca Wells
Brief 3: Kelly Parsons
Brief 4: Kelly Parsons, Corinna Hawkes
Brief 5: Kelly Parsons, Corinna Hawkes
Resource type:
Advocacy and policy

City University of London has produced five briefs as part of the "Rethinking Food Policy: A Fresh Approach to Policy and Practice" series. While focused on policy, each brief has important implications for business, academia and civil society - including the need for better alignment across public and private sectors to promote better nutrition.  


Brief 1: Tacking food systems challenges: The role of food policy

Tackling food systems challenges: the role of food policy, explores definitions, history and evolution of what food policy is, and then offer ten steps that can be taken by all food policy stakeholders (including decision makers, advocates and the private sector) to make food policy more effective, equitable and efficient:

  1. Take a systems approach
  2. Understand the connections
  3. Recognise tensions and manage tradeoffs
  4. Make policies coherent
  5. Embed food in all policies
  6. Join up the process of making food policy
  7. Advocate for better governance structures for the food system
  8. Use the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework
  9. Put people at the heart of policy-making
  10. Keep focused on finding solutions to specific problems


Brief 2: Understanding the food system: Why it matters for food policy

Understanding the food system: Why it matters for food policy explains the food system, including the drivers, players and interconnections throughout it (using a great visual on pages 4-5), and then put forward four implications for rethinking the role of food policy:

  1. There are many parts of the food system where action can be taken
  2. Policy actions in one part of the food system have consequences for other parts of the system
  3. There are opportunities to develop policy solutions which address multiple problems simultaneously
  4. Knowledge about different parts of the food system needs to be brought together


Brief 3: Integrated food policy: What it is, and how can it help transform food systems?

Integrated food policy: What is it, and how can it help transform food systems? puts forward an approach to policy making that can help join up four areas that tend to lead to result in siloed policy and action: policy areas; policy levels; goals; parts of the supply chain.

The authors define integrated food policy as "the joining up of goals and policies related to food systems – horizontally across governments, vertically between government levels, or between inside and outside government actors – to better align these efforts, reduce incoherence between them, and tackle food systems challenges more effectively." Through this integrated policy approach, the authors argue that six longstanding disconnects can be overcome: 

  • Irrationalities in food systems
  • Disconnects between government ministries
  • Disconnects between levels of government
  • Disconnects within ministries
  • Disconnects between government and private sector/civil society
  • Missed opportunities for policy synergies

The report concludes with five recommendations to help stimulate more effective and integrated policy:

  1. Be clear about what is in scope
  2. Acknowledge tough choices
  3. Build in mechanisms to protect against political fragility
  4. Redesign governance architecture to support holistic food policy
  5. Understand what levers are accessible


Brief 4: Embedding food in all policies

Embedding food in all policies describes and exemplifies a Food in All Policies (FiAP) approach to food systems challenges and shows that food has the potential to help tackle policy challenges in health, economic development, education, culture and social cohesion, environment and national security.

Though drawn largely from experience in London, the approaches and learning shared in this brief could be applied in multiple contexts. There are helpful diagrams and tables outlining the connections between food and these policy areas, provides examples of governance structures that can support the FiAP model and lessons for implementing a FiAP approach:

  1. Begin with a clear map of current policies and activities
  2. Know what the possibilities for policy change are
  3. ... and who will have a role to play
  4. Prioritise outcomes and create indicators
  5. Establish a dedicated go-to food group
  6. Bring patience and a positive framing
  7. Build understanding and capacity
  8. Be clear about who is accountable


Brief 5: Policy coherence in food systems

Policy coherence in food systems describes what policy coherence is, why it is needed and how to analyse it in order to devise more coherent food policy.

The authors define food policy coherence as "the alignment of policies that affect the food system with the aim of achieving health, environmental, social and economic goals, to ensure that policies designed to improve one food system outcome do not undermine others." The brief includes examples of policy coherence analyses that were done in South Africa, Indonesia, the EU and the US, and the lessons learned in each context. The authors encourage actors working to redesign food systems to take into account the following considerations: 

  1. Address a real-life policy conflict
  2. Define and create an evidence base
  3. Develop pathways to guide analysis
This resource has been peer reviewed