Scotland’s food culture has long extended beyond haggis and deep-fried Mars bars. In recent years our access to fine meats, fish and fresh produce has come under the spotlight as the Scottish Government aims to make our country what has been coined a ‘Good Food Nation’, writes Laura Ferguson of the Trussell Trust.
The outcome of this would, in theory, encourage Scotland to become a nation of food enthusiasts, taking keen interest in food’s origins and ensuring it’s environmentally sound – an approach it is hoped other nations would emulate. At the end of this month, a public consultation on the Scottish Government’s plan to potentially turn these proposals into law, closes.
It’s hugely positive that the Scottish Government is consulting with ordinary people across the nation on this. Yet while the Government considers how we can all access ‘good food’, in stark contrast the numbers of people without enough money to access any food at all continues to rise at an alarming rate.
Scotland can never be a Good Food Nation so long as people are struggling to afford food. Last year, the Scottish Government’s first survey of food insecurity found a fifth of households in deprived areas skipped meals or worried about not having enough to eat.
And in 2017/18, Scottish food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network distributed more than 170,500 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, a 17 per cent increase on the previous year. A third of these went to children. And Scotland saw a bigger increase than the rest of the UK overall. The Scottish Government has led the way in offering support to people left behind, like providing payments to those in hardship and investing in social security. But these proposals don’t go far enough.
While making sure people are able to eat ‘good’ healthy, nutritious and high-quality food is important, making sure people have enough money to buy any food at all must be at the heart of any government’s food policy. In a country that created a benefits system to protect people from poverty because it is the right thing to do, it is imperative that when any of us are faced with illness, disability, family breakdown or job loss, sufficient financial support is in place.
Food banks are providing absolutely vital, compassionate support in communities across Scotland and this is vastly down to the work of our incredible volunteers. They are experts at welcoming everyone who comes through the door with a cup of tea, sound words of advice, and ultimately, dignity and respect. But no charity can replace the dignity of having long-term financial security – it’s not right that food banks are left picking up the pieces.
We want to ensure everyone has the opportunity to have their voices heard by the Scottish Government. Its consultation form is difficult to understand and it’s hard to envisage how the plans will affect people on the ground. We’ve created a simple form to help make the process of responding easier, and we’d like to see the process made more accessible so everyone can truly have a say.
It’s completely unacceptable that anyone is forced to turn to a food bank in Scotland, and we’ll continue to campaign for systemic change until everyone has enough money coming in to keep pace with the rising cost of essentials like food and housing. Only then can we truly begin our journey to becoming a ‘good food nation’.
Laura Ferguson is the Trussell Trust’s Scotland operations manager