By Dan Yaxley, Good Food Nation Ambassador (@danyaxley)
The food system in Scotland is broken. Nearly 1 in 10 Scots experience food insecurity – a figure which rises to 21% for single parents. Food bank use is on the rise, with more than 200 providers handing out increasing numbers of emergency food packages in 2018, a number which is growing faster than anywhere else in the UK. More children than ever are experiencing ‘holiday hunger’ when they are away from schools, with more than 14500 given free meals during last year’s summer holidays. Despite Scotland’s rich food heritage and globally recognised produce, many of the food sector’s workers – whether in production, processing, distribution or service – are poorly paid, over-exploited and undervalued.
The system is designed primarily to drive profits and not in the interest of those who live within it. Wage freezes, the rising cost of living and changes to welfare have meant that many people are struggling to nourish themselves and their families. The Scottish Food Coalition (SFC) – a group of organisations who work collectively for food justice – believes change is needed, and right now Scotland has the opportunity to fix the broken system and improve the lives of its citizens.
The Good Food Nation Bill, which is currently at the public consultation stage, seeks to improve Scotland’s relationship with food on both a personal and systematic level, and is the best chance Scotland has to transition to a food system which is fair, ethical, and socially and environmentally just.
What does it mean to be a Good Food Nation?
It means that food workers earn at least the living wage, and food producers are paid fairly for their produce. The food that we produce is nutritionally sound, and food waste is minimised. The need for food banks is eliminated and access to healthy and sustainable food is not dependent on income. Public spaces, including schools, hospitals and care homes offer a high standard of food and can lead by example to influence change in other industries. Aside from this, a Good Food Nation protects the food environment, ensuring that land is used appropriately and animal welfare is of the highest standard.
The most significant way that we can make that transition is by invoking the Right to Food. This is guaranteed by international law but cannot be enforced until it is incorporated into Scot’s law. This would mean that food must satisfy three demands: availability (from shops or natural resources); accessibility (affordable, without having to compromise other basic needs); and adequacy (culturally and nutritionally appropriate, and safe to consume).
The legal framework to fulfil these food rights is essential in the fight to end food insecurity and poverty. For example, the Good Food Nation Act could push the government to increase social security for people who are struggling and to look at ways of improving access to food for those who currently go without. But this will not only help those who are struggling – if this right is enshrined in law, the government will be legally required to give everyone in Scotland access to a food system which works for them and their planet.
A Good Food Nation will set measurable targets which will be reviewed at regular intervals: the reduction in food insecurity; the reduction in food bank use; the increase in the number of food and drinks businesses paying the living wage, and more. It will create an independent statutory body which will enable the Good Food Nation agenda to be scrutinised and will ensure the government is held to account when implementing its changes. It will seek to form a Food Commission which will enable policies to be evidence-based and shaped by public experience. It will establish a Nation Food Plan, working towards the Sustainable Development Goals and with links to the National Performance Framework.
This is the Good Food Nation that the SFC wants to see realised. It’s the Good Food Nation that those living in Scotland deserve.
How can you get involved?
The best way to support the campaign for a Good Food Nation is by responding to the consultation. To make the biggest impact, you should respond directly to the Government’s own four questions. The questions are difficult, so the SFC have put together a guide which explains how to respond.
Or, if preferred, there is an e-action form available which allows for a less direct response which can be completed quickly and easily.
The consultation closes on March 29th. Be sure to have your say and help shape the future of Scotland’s food system.