England’s food policy coordination and the Covid‑19 response
The impact of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the response of government and non-government actors, from February-September 2020, offers critical insights into the current state of England’s food policy processes and operations, and in particular the coordination of national food policy approaches. This study aims to clarify and solidify the discourse around food policy coordination by differentiating between routine coordination of the activities of government, and strategic coordination of such policy activities with higher-level strategic goals, such as those associated with a healthy and sustainable food system. This framework is applied to the case study based on documentary analysis. In detailing the evidence of coordination in the response, including examples of cross-government working, and collaboration across the public, private and third sectors, the findings illustrate the breadth of actors which constituted the policy and governance response. These included public policymakers in national and local governments, and from a range of different government departments; private sector food businesses; and third sector organisations. There was a high level of routine coordination, but also instances of disconnection and delay. A lack of strategic coordination provides an explanatory device for several instances of disconnection and incoherence, including interventions which failed to prioritise nutrition-related health, and the working conditions of those employed in the food sector. The routine-strategic distinction can be deployed to inform discussions on the types of policy coordination mechanisms, such as cross–cutting taskforces or bodies, which might be instituted to support connected working on food.