Specialists at the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, are calling for the establishment of a cross-Government committee to coordinate decision-making on food during the coronavirus pandemic.
The academics said the measure would be needed to ensure the UK’s small food businesses, and the infrastructure they depend on, could survive into the future.
Their research showed at least 16 Government departments are responsible for different aspects of getting food from farm to fork in England, alongside numerous public bodies and separate decision-making structures in the devolved nations.
The call was made in a new Guidance Note published by the Food Research Collaboration, part of the Centre for Food Policy, as the virus continued to cause supply chain disruption, change shopping habits, exacerbate labour shortages and leave farmers with food unable to be harvested or sold.
The document said better Government coordination could also ensure sufficient quantities of nutritious food are made available to consumers on a fair basis, give clarity and guidance to community organisations matching supply and demand and stop the state from losing credibility as ‘guardian of the nation’s nutritional health’.
Lead author Dr Rosalind Sharpe said: “Food affects many policy sectors, from agriculture and business to trade and health.
“As a result, important decisions which affect what we eat and who gets to eat it are made in different parts of Government, and they do not always join up.
“This is not a new problem, but Covid-19 has really highlighted the lack of coordination, for example with food shortages and surpluses hitting at the same time.”
Co-author Dr Kelly Parsons warned the committee would need senior backing, a wide remit and enough resources to do the job if it were to be successful.