Recipe for a Good Food Nation
Soil Association Scotland has long supported the Scottish Government’s ambition to become a Good Food Nation – one in which people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food that they buy, serve, and eat each day. That’s why, although we’re disappointed that plans for a Good Food Nation Bill have been withdrawn in the recently announced Programme for Government, we welcome the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to pursuing a Good Food Nation programme through legislation.
We firmly believe that the Scottish public sector should be a beacon of good food. Putting in place legal duties will help create the change that is needed to make good food the easy choice for everyone. We’ve put together a menu of Good Food Nation solutions; a recipe for a transformation in the way Scotland eats, farms, and cares for the natural world.
A definition of ‘good food’
What do we mean by good food? From our experience of engaging with over 50% of Scottish local authorities through our Food For Life Scotland programme, we know that clear and concise information is crucial to giving individuals and organisations a framework for decision making. That’s why we need an agreed definition of ‘good food’, written into law.
In France, recently enacted legislation sets out a definition of ‘sustainable food’. It covers foodstuffs that have an official sign of quality and origin (such as certified organic produce, or those entitled to use the protected designation of origin AOC), that are seasonal products, and that are local products.
The aim of this law is to restructure the food system in France, stimulate local economies, and shorten the food supply chain to a minimum, reducing emissions from agriculture.
Why a legal duty?
It’s heartening that the Scottish Government remains committed to the Good Food Nation programme. But if we want to see the kind of long-term positive change that leads to a reshaping of the food system, it needs to be written into legislation.
We’re calling for all public bodies to have a legal duty to consider good food both at a strategic level, and when carrying out their day-to-day work, shaping policy, delivering services, and in relation to their own employees.
Once we have a set definition of good food, that legal duty could take the form of impact assessments of all policies and practices carried out by public bodies, good food organisational and implementation plans, and reporting to government, parliament, or an independent body. It’s crucial that these duties are ‘owned’ at a strategic level and embedded throughout organisations, so that opportunities to achieve good food outcomes are recognised and acted on.
Transforming public procurement
Over 688,000 pupils attend public sector Scottish schools. One in five Scottish adults works in the public sector, and one in eight of us will be admitted to hospital this year. The public sector is uniquely positioned to tackle health inequalities by normalising good food, and creating environments where it is easy and enjoyable for everyone to eat well. Furthermore, public procurement of sustainable food is one of the most effective mechanisms at our disposal to drive transformation in food production and supply.
Over the past 15 years, Denmark has pursued a policy model which aims to increase organic food procurement to 60% in all public kitchens by 2020 (in accordance with initiative at EU level). As a result, they’ve seen a boost in sales for organic food and beverages for the food service sector of 33%, a greater focus on health and environmental sustainability, and an upskilling of the catering workforce.
Research into our Food For Life programme UK-wide shows that every £1 spent by a local authority on a Food For Life certified school meal brings a social return on investment of £4.41 in the form of jobs, skills, and improved health outcomes. It’s time to start thinking beyond the food on the plate, and see the vital role that food can play in delivering on Scotland’s social, economic, and environmental priorities.
 Jones M, Pitt H, Oxford L, Orme J, Gray S, Salmon D, Means R, Weitkamp E, Kimberlee R & Powell J (2016) Food for Life: a Social Return on Investment Analysis of the Locally Commissioned Programme. Full Report. UWE Bristol.