London Councils continue to support good food despite budget cuts

Sustain’s Good Food Local: the London report highlights that London councils are committed to meaningful action on food, despite years of budget cuts.

This Good Food Local: the London report, previously the Good Food for All Londoners report, indicates that councils across London are using their resource and capacity to go the extra mile on school food, and are helping to create healthier boroughs with restrictions on advertising for unhealthy food.

This year’s report falls at a momentous time: coinciding with the five-year anniversary of the Healthier Food Advertising Policy introduced across the Transport for London estate, and in the wake of the Mayor of London’s announcement that universal primary school meals provision will be extended for a further academic year.

The impact of these region-wide policies can be seen in this year’s report, with councils expanding eligibility for school meals or improving the quality of school meals. Several more councils have also passed Healthier Food Advertising Policies, making a total of seven London councils with their own policies in place to protect their communities from unhealthy food adverts.

Barbara Crowther, Campaign Manager for the Children’s Food Campaign at Sustain says: “With new Mayoral funding for primary school meals, 2023 was a momentous year for school food in London. Many councils have gone the extra mile with advice and support, including additional grants to improve kitchen and dining facilities, or top up funding beyond £2.65 per meal, or expand their secondary meal services. 

“The opportunity – and challenge – is not just putting food on a plate, but ensuring it is nutritious, and appealing, connects into food education and learning, and supports local health, sustainability and climate change goals. What happens in London has the power to inform and transform future government policies and funding levels, not just in London but across the nation; not just for primary, but for all children from nursery to sixth form.”  

The report details that councils are prioritising cash-first responses to food poverty. This approach ensures autonomy, dignity and choice are at the forefront of responses to food insecurity, and helps maximise household income for those facing financial hardship. Many councils are committing to increase data collection to make the process more streamlined and to be better able to reach those who require support. 

Underpinning all this work is the effort being made by councils to invest resource and capacity into good food governance. Despite budget cuts, local authorities are showing that they understand good food work is best supported by cross-sector collaboration and systems-wide innovation; not working in siloes and sticking-plaster solutions. Twenty-three councils are now working within food partnerships, and 12 of these are members of the Sustainable Food Places network.

Sofia Parente, Head of Local Action at Sustain, says: “The size and confidence of the Sustainable Food Places network has grown significantly over the last few years and one third of London boroughs are members of the network. Alongside councils, they are stepping up to address household food insecurity, supporting community food enterprise, harnessing food’s role in the fight against climate change, and using planning to enable community food growing.”

From the 29 councils that completed the survey, 11 have received awards for their achievements. Camden, Greenwich, Islington, Lambeth, Newham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets have been recognised for scoring highly across a broad range of measures, showing cross-cutting leadership. Wandsworth has been recognised as the most improved council, with special mention of its work on food poverty, school food, and developing a food strategy. 

Lewisham has received a commendation for its work on community food action, Waltham Forest is commended for its work on a local, sustainable food system, and Westminster has received a commendation for its efforts on tackling food poverty.

Find out how your council scored


Latest news