Stephen Jardine: Scotland’s year of food and drink

Stephen Jardine. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Stephen Jardine. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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HOW do you follow a year that brought Scotland the Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games? The answer is with 12 months devoted to food and drink.

The Scottish Government’s Year of Food and Drink has kicked off quietly but aims to lift our national larder and those responsible for it to a new level of visibility. With each month themed, the idea is to give everyone a piece of the action.

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So while whisky and seafood have their place on the calendar, so do fruit, dairy, berries and farm shops.

Funding is in place to support the Year of Food and Drink and a number of festivals and special events are planned. So far, so like the Year of Natural Scotland, or the Year of Creative Scotland before that.

But there is something bigger at stake here. Unlike some of the other themed years that may not impact on us directly, when it comes to food and drink, we all engage at least three times a day.

Unfortunately, despite the health of our food and drink sector, our national wellbeing has not kept pace. High rates of liver disease, cancer and coronary heart disease have been linked to lifestyle factors, including excessive drinking, smoking and poor diet.

Last year, we saw what the body is capable of achieving in terms of sporting success. This year, the focus shifts to the fuel that goes into the human machine.

By the end of 2015, no-one should be in any doubt that we are a good food nation, producing plentiful supplies of lean meat, healthy fish, berries packed with vitamins and vegetables full of nutrients. It’s all there for us, if we want to use it. Making the most of that needs to be the legacy of this special year. Wherever we are, whenever we can, we need to be choosing and eating Scottish.

Not only does that bolster the local economy and put money in the pockets of Scottish producers, it’s also likely to ensure food that is fresher and less processed ends up in your body.

Committing to this for 2015 isn’t necessarily going to be easy. In an attempt to convince us they actually care about their suppliers, the major supermarkets have been increasing their selection of Scottish produce in recent years. But for the really good stuff, you need to shop harder.

The best selection of Scottish produce is in your local butcher, baker and fishmonger, with farm shops and farmers’ markets offering little else. Much of the time, it won’t be more expensive but where it does cost a little more, we need to accept decent food comes at a price.

Proportionally, we spend less on food in Scotland than the rest of the UK and the latest figures suggest our spending is dropping. If the legacy of 2015 ends up being increased spending on Scottish produce and improved health outcomes as a result, surely that is a price worth paying?

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