Maddy Kirkman, Policy Officer
07 April 2017
The thing about food, is that it links to everything. From the farm to the fork, the things we eat are part of a huge system that says a lot about what we value as a society. Whether it’s the carbon footprint of our farming, the nutritional content of our food, or the relationship we educate our children to have with food – the way we eat can’t be taken for granted.
For a public policy nerd like me, this makes food the best problem to solve. Last year, Cyrenians hosted thought-provoking Food Conversations; bringing together all sorts of people from across the system to talk about what food means to them and what they need from food. From this, we developed our message of ‘Something to Eat, Someone to Eat With’ which recognises both the physical and social nourishment we all need.
With some estimates claiming that up to a quarter of Scottish households are living in food insecurity, and the Trussell Trust reporting that at third of foodbank parcels are delivered to children, it’s clear we have a problem with the distribution of food. While on the other hand, warnings about diet in Scotland have been around for years. With 29% of adults and 1 in 6 children said to be obese – leading to serious risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer – it’s also clear we need to take a health perspective on food. Additionally, the evidence of the impact our food system is having on our environment is now too strong to ignore. With one third of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions the result of food and farming, declining fish stocks and biodiversity, and the degradation of our soils, it’s clear that business as usual in the food system is not a sustainable option.
A fairer and more sustainable future
And these issues have been on the minds of others too, including the Scottish Government. With their manifesto commitment to introducing a Good Food Nation Bill in 2017, a nation-wide conversation is taking place about the opportunity to build a fairer and more sustainable food system for Scotland.
The thing that’s really ground-breaking about this policy is that it is cross-departmental. To many of us it might seem obvious that the multi-dimensional problems around food will need a multi-dimensional approach to mend, but by working across government departments for agriculture, transportation, energy, environment, education and health, Scotland is set to become a world leader in this area.
We’ve been working alongside others in the Scottish Food Coalition to keep up the momentum behind this issue. Following the publication of the Plenty Report in 2016 which makes the case for a ‘just transition’ in our food system from ‘food as a commodity’ to ‘food for people’ and the publication of informative policy briefings which call for a food system based on social and environmental justice, it’s clear that our narrative of an interdisciplinary approach to food is having impact.
At Cyrenians, we’re proud to be part of the community tackling hunger and isolation through our food depot and community cook clubs, but we’re equally proud to be contributing to national legislation that tackles the root cause of these problems.