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Building a healthier food environment

Safefood’s new public health campaign to protect children’s health.


What we know – the evidence

Food related ill-health is now the biggest cause of preventable illness and death in the developed world, far greater than smoking. Currently, one in 4 children in Northern Ireland and one in 5 in Ireland live with either overweight or obesity. They are more at risk of life-altering diseases later in life including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many common cancers. They are also at risk of experiencing poor psychological and social effects during their childhood due to weight stigmatisation.

The food that surrounds us – our food environment - encourages us to eat unhealthily at nearly every turn we take. We are bombarded with marketing and promotions for unhealthy foods. The pricing and availability of unhealthy food and drink makes it the cheaper, always within easy reach, option which we purchase and consume without a second thought. We know children in particular are targeted.

At the heart of this campaign is protecting children. They have a right to safe and healthy food.

Be aware of the food that surrounds us - our food environment.

What we want people to do - #TalkAboutFood

  • Be aware of the food that surrounds us - our food environment.
  • Recognise how the food environment influences our food and health choices.
  • Learn about how the food environment is harmful to our health and children's.
  • Start talking to others about the food that surrounds us.
  • Know that some work is already happening but think about what else needs to be done.

What we’re going to do – the campaign

This all-island campaign will feature advertising on television, billboard posters, bus stops, and on social media and digital channels. It will also feature real-life experiences of people trying to navigate today’s food environment to illustrate how it negatively impacts the choices we make. We’re also going to raise the issue of our unhealthy food environment in the media through advocacy and public relations activity using trusted voices.

What we’re going to measure – the benchmark

We conducted a baseline piece of research with the public before starting this campaign and our campaign metrics will be based on these findings:

Who the public feel is responsible

More than 6 in 10 adults (62%) believe they are mainly responsible for food-related ill-health in children, far ahead of food manufacturers (9%) and food retailers (4%). We want to change this imbalance taking the responsibility away from the individual and putting greater responsibility on those who produce and sell our food.

Recognition of our food environment

At present, one in 4 adults (25%) have heard the term ‘food environment’. While the term itself is not so important people need to be more aware of the food that surrounds around them.

Effects of our food environment

One in 3 adults (34%) believe the food environment has a negative impact on the food choices we make – almost half (45%) believe it makes no difference. To build a healthier food environment and create change, we need to make more people aware of how the food environment impacts negatively on our food choices and our health.

Where we go - our roadmap

As part of the campaign, Safefood will lead a Food Environment Forum which will comprise the lead health agencies involved in the policy and partnership work in this area. The partners include the two Departments of Health, Northern Ireland and Ireland, the Public Health Agency NI, The HSE, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Food Standards Agency NI.

Together we will chart a course for the next 5 years and help deliver change. It is anticipated that the demand for change created by the campaign will help advance this work and expedite the changes needed to build a healthier food environment.

What stakeholders can do

We would like you to amplify our campaign by reposting, sharing, commenting and contributing to the #TalkAboutFood conversation on our channels.

Our campaign assets will include:

  • Videos from parents, young people and grandparents reflecting their food environment
  • Videos from doctors, nutritionists, marketing experts and behavioural psychologists discussing the food environment
  • Social media assets aimed at driving awareness

To become more involved or if you would like more information please contact Laura Reilly at [email protected]

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