Good Food Nation plan policy asks
Soil Association Scotland has welcomed the Good Food Nation Act and the commitment to produce national and local good food plans, which can define and normalise healthy and sustainable diets and set a clear direction of travel for improving our food system.
As families across Scotland struggle because of the cost-living-crisis, it is more important than ever that national and local governments lead the way on food. We know that it is society’s most vulnerable, at home and abroad, who pay the price in a broken food system, through poor health outcomes, reduced economic opportunities and experience of climate change. Public sector budgets are undeniably stretched, but it is imperative that the true value of food is recognised in the Good Food Nation plans so that Scotland can lead the way in food policy and show what’s possible.
Scotland is world-renowned for its larder of fine food and drink, but we still have a huge problem with diet-related ill-health. More than half of the average shopping basket consists of ultra-processed foods, which a compelling body of evidence is now linking with obesity and chronic disease including cancer and diabetes. We also waste far too much food, and we are not doing enough to address the impact of industrial food production on wildlife decline and environmental degradation.
There are many examples of good practice, however, from nature-friendly farming systems such as organic, pioneering community partnerships such as the Sustainable Food Places network, and the Food for Life programme sourcing fresh, local and sustainable produce for school meals.
Below, we have set out below our five key asks for the National Good Food Plan,
1. Purpose of the plan
Our ask: Set clear aims and objectives for the plan and define ‘good food’.
The aims, objectives and outcomes of the National Good Food Plan must be stated very clearly, with measurable targets for progress. Scotland as a Good Food Nation should be a place where everybody has access to healthy, nutritious and sustainable food. The plan should define what is meant by ‘good food’ – we suggest that should mean food that is good for health, good for the environment and good for the economy.
The plan should promote healthy and sustainable diets and address the links between industrially produced food, poor diets and negative health and environmental outcomes, both at home and abroad.
2. Dietary change
Our ask: Encourage a shift to healthy and sustainable diets, and the consumption of less but better meat, and more and better vegetables, fruit and pulses.
There is widespread agreement that our diets must change in order to tackle the twin climate and nature emergencies. Reports from the UK Climate Change Committee and EAT Lancet, alongside studies by IDDRI/FFCC and the Sustainable Food Trust, have all called for reductions in meat consumption in order to reduce emissions linked to food production. If the Scottish Government is to meet its target of reaching Net Zero by 2045, in addition to the interim target to reduce agricultural emissions by 31% by 2032, then dietary change will be required.
The National Good Food Plan should encourage the consumption of less but better meat, and more and better vegetables, fruit and pulses. This would mean, for example, pasture-fed beef and lamb from sustainable systems, like organic, prioritised over industrially produced, grain-fed poultry and pork. This could start in public settings such as schools by ensuring, at a minimum, that all meat on menus is QMS farm assured, with the aim of increasing organic or Pasture for Life certified meat.
3. Organic food
Our ask: Recognise the environmental and economic policy outcomes delivered by organic food production and include a 15% target for organic food in public procurement.
There is strong evidence to show that organic food production systems lead to reductions in emissions from agriculture and an increase in on-farm biodiversity, which can help to deliver on the Scottish Government’s net zero and nature restoration ambitions. Increased domestic production will also deliver economic benefits by meeting consumer demand for organic produce.
The Scottish Government has committed to doubling the area of land managed organically within this parliament (by 2026) and to working with the sector to develop a new Organic Food and Farming Action Plan. To achieve lasting growth within the sector, demand-side (pull) measures are required alongside supply-side (push) measures such as supporting farmers to convert. Setting a target for increasing the share of organic food within public procurement is one lever the Scottish Government can pull to increase demand for domestic produce.
4. Food for Life Scotland
Our ask: Continue to support Food for Life Scotland as an established mechanism for delivering on Scottish Government economic, environmental and health-related policy objectives.
A guaranteed hot, nutritious meal at school is vital for children’s health, wellbeing and ability to learn. This has never been more important as families face the ongoing cost of living crisis. National and local governments must prioritise providing adequate funding for school meals so that the multiple benefits provided by school food can be achieved and maximised. This should account for inflationary pressures and increasing numbers as Universal Free School Meals are rightfully rolled out to all primary years.
Food for Life Scotland (FFLS) is a proven mechanism to support school caterers serve freshly prepared, healthy, and sustainable meals made from locally produced ingredients. FFLS helps meet multiple Scottish Government policy objectives, by driving up spend on Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) assured and locally sourced meat (economy, community wealth building), sourcing food from sustainable methods of production such as organic (environment, climate) and helping local authorities meet nutritional regulations in line with Scottish dietary goals (health).
The Scottish Government should use the National Good Food Plan to announce mandatory bronze accreditation through FFL Served Here for all Scottish councils, sending a clear signal that healthy and sustainable diets for children are a priority – and that the Scottish Government will support Scottish farmers by using public procurement to increase demand for local, sustainable produce.
5. Ultra-Processed Foods
Our ask: Promote healthy and sustainable diets, recognise the harms caused by diets high in Ultra-Processed Foods (UPFs) and set a target to reduce consumption of UPFs.
There is now a compelling body of evidence linking diets high in Ultra Processed Foods (UPFs) with ill health, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. More than half of the average UK shopping basket is made up of UPFs, and British children have the highest levels of ultra-processed food consumption in Europe. National dietary guidance should encourage consumers to reduce their consumption of UPFs and eat more minimally processed and natural food. This should be underlined by clear public health messaging. France has introduced a percentage reduction target for UPFs and other countries such as Canada and Brazil recommend limiting or avoiding these foods. Scotland could take the lead in the UK by using the plan to recognise the negative health impact of diets high in UPFs and set a target to reduce the consumption of these products.