On the 21st of March we were fortunate enough to spend an evening in the company of Pete Ritchie, Executive Director at Nourish Scotland and owner of Whitmuir Organics, to hear about the work they are doing to influence the Good Food Nation Bill – coming soon to the Scottish Parliament.
Nourish Scotland is a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) campaigning on food justice issues in Scotland. Here is what they say about their very ambitious goals on their own website:
With food at the heart of many of the major crises we all face today, from the destruction of our natural world to the pervasiveness of diet-related illness and household food insecurity, it’s crucial that we create a system which provides solutions to these issues. Nourish contributes across food issues – health, inequality and social justice, environmental justice, and the local food economy; whilst linking the levels, supporting grassroots community efforts and influencing national policy and legislation – and using each to inform the other.
Good Food Nation Bill
Most recent of their projects is a campaign around the Good Food Nation Bill, together with Scottish Food Coalition. The Bill is due to be debated in Scottish Parliament shortly and gives us a chance to introduce ‘a coherent and connected approach to food policy, which facilitates a just transition to a fair, healthy and sustainable food system.’ Farmerama Radio has a lovely little podcast with Nourish Scotland’s Bella Crowe explaining the food system issues and ideas behind the campaign here.
Kitchen Table Talks
In order to make sure that the voice of ordinary people is heard in government’s consultation around the Bill, over the last 12 weeks Scottish Food Coalition has been facilitating a series of Kitchen Table Talks nationally. These informal gatherings of groups of people have been encouraged to discuss their most pressing concerns about the current food system and come up with five recommendations on actions which government should take to address those issues.
We joined in the Kitchen Table Talk campaign by holding a group meeting at The Dolphin Centre on the 21st of March, attended by 12 people. Pete gave us the low-down on the bill and the process, followed by a discussion in two smaller groups. There was lively debate covering many aspects of the food system, and we the following summary was fed back to Scottish Food Coalition:
- Animal welfare. This had two areas of concern – firstly industrial cattle farming and the need to get back to traditional farming methods; secondly the transportation of animals to abattoir, and the distress this causes the animals.
- The public’s lack of accessible land to grow/raise food.
- The ability of Big Food and industrial farming (the food system) to irresponsibly grow, produce, transport, market and sell harmful, unhealthy food which damages the environment and the public.
- A lack of education about where food comes from and how to cook it, for those who most need it.
- The relationship the general public has with food, at the supermarket, when we eat out, via advertising on TV, social media, etc.
What the government can do:
- Animal welfare – incentivise smaller, traditional/organic farming practices rather than large scale production; return to smaller, more local abattoirs and create guidelines for the safe transportation of animals which minimises distress.
- Create ‘the right to land’ so that anyone who has a desire to grow their own food has access to a plot (or space to raise chickens) and education.
- Stop subsidies for these large organisations/farms. Shift the current incentive of efficiency (which benefits supermarkets) to those who grow less harmful produce, subsiding diversity, pesticide free farming.
- Bring back real food cooking lessons in school, focus on helping children (and parents) understand how food is grown and produced (in the case of processed foods).
- Penalise businesses that irresponsibly market their products, including changing the pricing structure of healthy v unhealthy food.
All of the feedback is being now collated and will be submitted for consideration at the consultation with the Scottish Parliament. If we can prove that hundreds of people across Scotland are actively engaged in this process, then perhaps we can influence the bill to make a real difference. Watch this space!