I’m delighted to welcome a guest post from Mike Small replying to my piece on food in schools. Mike is one of the founding members (if not the founder?) of the Fife Diet, a consumer network of people passionate about local food, although many of you might know him through his having fingers in other blogging and campaigning pies!
Kate’s post last week ‘Less than glorious food in Scotland’s schools‘ touched on a subject I’ve been exploring for some years: why do we feed ourselves (not just our children) such dreadful food?
Martha’s Never Seconds blog kicked off the most recent discussion about the health of the nation (dire) and once again we have a round of media chatter and very little action. This issue – broadly speaking we’re killing ourselves with eating too much – too much bad meat – too much sugar and doing too little exercise – has been spinning round and round the plate of public debate like an overcooked Turkey Twizzler.
At the recent Food and Drink conference in Perth there was an almost choking contradiction between the conference slogan ‘Celebrating Our Success’ and the reality displayed by guest speaker ‘Dr João Breda, Programme Manager in Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the World Health Organization’. You can see his presentation here, but I know most of you don’t have to. Yup, we’re still heading up those Sick Man of Europe charts in most areas.
At the Fife Diet, we’ve recently launched a New Food Manifesto to try and respond to the various and connected crises of our food culture. We’ve cherry-picked the best social policies and innovation from round Europe, drawing on the best ideas from Denmark, Hungary and France amongst others.
The aims of the new food manifesto are to:
1) connect the way we grow, produce, distribute and consume our food with our climate change targets
2) connect the environmental policy framework to our health and well-being initiatives
3) look afresh at the values that underpin how we organise our food economy
We have a food market monopolised by a handful of companies and health and nutrition targets that we’re struggling to meet. These ideas are all about creating more joined up thinking in how we grow, consume and distribute our food and a more diverse economic model. It’s also about creating some real urgency about the real problems we face in our health and in our environmental challenges in Scotland.
At the moment there are some great things happening in the sustainable food movement, in community development and in environmental protection. But we suffer from operating in a society of silos: where the crops in our fields and the food on our plates are completely disconnected.
The purpose of the manifesto is to try and help build a food culture in which communities can begin to be part of a restorative practice for a better food system. We propose ‘food sovereignty replacing ‘food security’ as the guiding principle of our policy, and explore the opportunities for collaborative gains between the agendas of community food and health, affordability and sustainability. We are looking at four themes: low carbon communities, culture & education, health & wellbeing and innovation & enterprise.
Here’s our 20 ideas to change the way we eat…
1. Soup Test – no child to leave school without knowing how to make a pot of soup [CULTURE & EDUCATION].
2. Right to Grow – opportunity from the Enabling Communities legislation and the Land Fund [LOW CARBON COMMUNITIES]
3. A Seasonal 5 A Day – a joint national environmental and health campaign through schools, blogs and GPs / health centres / cafes exploring what a Scottish 5 a day would look like. [HEALTH & WELL-BEING]
4. Sugar Drink Tax – a small tax on the most unhealthy fizzy drinks as has been applied successfully in France [HEALTH & WELL-BEING]
5. Elevate Food to the Climate Change Agenda – develop specific Food Emissions targets. see also Waste & Composting – see the Zero Waste Plan for Scotland] [LOW CARBON COMMUNITIES]
6. Moratorium on Supermarket Expansion (focusing instead on CSA, urban agriculture and food co-ops) [INNOVATION & ENTERPRISE]
7. Decentralise our Food Infrastructure – encourage and enable development of differing scales of mills and abattoirs [INNOVATION & ENTERPRISE]
9. A Food Leadership Team – to draw together the strands of food policy, make sure it works and drive it forward. It would also look at wider policy and develop strategies for international issues like palm oil, and bigger challenges like refrigeration. [LOW CARBON COMMUNITIES]
10. Public Procurement – build on East Ayrshire model, making sustainable public procurement ta key corporate objective for LS’s, schools and hospitals. [INNOVATION & ENTERPRISE]
11. Plastic Bag Tax – hypothecated tax going back in to community food initiatives [INNOVATION & ENTERPRISE]
12. Regional Food Mapping – building on the work already being led by SOAS
13. New Food Indicators – what indicators other than export-growth should we be using to chart ‘success’ in food policy? How many new farmers we attract into the sector? Vitamin intake, soil quality, expansion of organics, food mile reduction, resilience in local economies? [CULTURE & EDUCATION]
14. Farm Apprenticeships – building on work being led by Nourish at Elmwood College [INNOVATION & ENTERPRISE]
15. School Farms – part of the curriculum for excellence [CULTURE & EDUCATION]
16. Farm Corps, Garden Corps – a chance for gap-year, NEET and young people to get work experience [INNOVATION & ENTERPRISE]
17. GM Free Scotland – we should maintain and champion Scotland’s GM-free status [INNOVATION & ENTERPRISE]
18. Queen of the Sea – celebrate and foster our fishing heritage – research project and publication to celebrate our seafood culture.[CULTURE & EDUCATION]
19. Scottish Orchard/Fruit – large-scale co-ordinated re-planting and boost of plant diversity [INNOVATION & ENTERPRISE]
20. A New Food Economy – connecting people with the potential of a food economy (social enterprise in food, sustainable catering and cafes) [INNOVATION & ENTERPRISE]
You can download the manifesto in full at the Fife Diet website.
Some of this is tricky and will take years, some of it could be done tomorrow with the political will.
Since launching it we’ve had a wave of good feedback and the feeling is that we need to change things and transform our expectation of ill health. We’d like to create a food culture where Martha was coming back for more and growing some of the food she and her friends ate at school.
We think this is possible.