Our online platform for the Nourish community to share their ideas and events. have your say on the discussions forum – there are four categories to choose from join a group of people with similar interests or who are local… Read More
The Scottish Government wants to know the nation's views In June 2015 the Scottish Government released a discussion document, The Future of Scottish Agriculture, setting out a vision and strategy for farming in Scotland in the next decades.... Read More
Holyrood Election 2016
The Scottish Parliamentary election on May 9th 2016 was a chance to find out what political parties will do to improve the Scotland we all live in and how they will do it. What could be closer to… Read More
84 organisations from across UK, including Nourish, have called on government to adopt common-sense food, farming and fishing policies that are good for jobs, health and the environment, when they plan for the UK¹s exit from the European Union.
The coalition has written a letter to Oliver Letwin MP, who’ll be overseeing the new government unit that will lay the groundwork for a British exit from the European Union. You can download their letter here: Oliver_Letwin_letter_FINAL.
The letter therefore urges Letwin and his unit to ensure, in concert with the devolved administrations, that fair, healthy, humane and environmentally sustainable food, farming, fishing and land management are central to the post EU Referendum strategy for the UK, and that new trade agreements build on, and do not undermine, progress achieved over several decades and under several governments.
Brexit could mean a race to the bottom in environmental protection and workers’ rights, with Owen Patterson promising at a NFUS meeting before the referendum to ‘ditch the precautionary principle’. Scotland has much to be proud of in safeguarding employment and environmental standards – the agricultural wages board, marine protected areas, a moratorium on GM – while supporting a successful food and drink industry. And Scotland welcomes citizens from other EU countries who play an essential role in our food and farming industry, whereas the negative grudging attitude from sections of the Leave campaign risks a rise in exploitation of migrant workers.
Nourish wants to see Scotland remain in the EU in line with the way Scotland voted but meanwhile we are working alongside colleagues across the UK to maintain and build on the environmental and employment safeguards which the UK and EU have put in place over the last 40 years.
Some key facts on Scottish food and farming in the context of the EU:
Food is Scotland’s and the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector.
European farm subsidies account for 40% of the EU’s budget and for over half of farm income in Scotland.
Scotland lands 37% of the EU’s total allowable catch of fish.
The 166,000 citizens from other EU countries living in Scotland make a massive contribution to Scottish agriculture, food manufacturing and catering.
65% of UK farm workers come from other EU countries.
You can read our briefing papers in the run up to the EU referendum here.
The Global Nutrition Report ‘From Promise to Impact, Ending malnutrition by 2030’ 2016 was released today. The report is the only independent and comprehensive annual review of the state of the world’s nutrition. You can find it on Twitter as @GNReport or #NutritionReport.
This week we’re in Geneva giving evidence to the UN on the right to food.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the who/what/why.
What is the right to food?
The right to food is protected within the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The UK ratified this Covenant in 1976 but never incorporated the rights in to our legal system – making it difficult for people to enforce them, and less likely that decision-makers will actively promote them.
The technical definition centres on three key words; the right of everyone to have access to adequate food, and that food may be available in to the future. This covers a lot of issues;
When we talk about access this means everyone having enough money to buy food through the protection of a minimum income standard and social security system that considers the cost of living. It also means everyone being able to geographically access food – paying particular attention to the barriers people face through illness, disability and age.
When we talk about adequate food we’re talking about the nutritional content of the food available – this includes overcoming diet-related health inequalities. It also means that our food should be free from toxic chemicals, and that our food should be culturally appropriate – including that we may access it with choice and dignity.
And when we’re talking about the availability of food this touches on the availability of land and other resources so as people may grow food, the existence of processing distribution and markets, and the overall sustainability of the food system – including its contribution to and its resilience to climate change.
In what ways have our governments failed?
The UK isn’t doing great across most of the elements of the right to food. The area that’s attracted the most attention in the last 5 years is household food insecurity – a growing number of people are uncertain whether their income will be enough to meet their food needs. At the harshest end of the spectrum we see a lot of people relying on charity in the form of food banks, but it’s important to remember that there are also a lot of people who don’t or can’t get to a food bank. Because we have no systematic monitoring of food insecurity in the UK we don’t actually know how many people are food insecure.
Food bank volunteers do a good job of supporting people in crisis but this should not be seen as a long term solution – our governments need to tackle the root of the problem – low wages and an inadequate social security net.
What will you be doing in Geneva?
The UN Committee responsible for monitoring compliance with the Covenant is conducting its 5-yearly examination of the UK. The specific meeting that’s happening this week is called an ‘interactive dialogue’ – the Committee ask the UK Government, and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments where the matter is devolved, a series of questions based on what it believes to be the main issues relating to Covenant rights. A large number of civil society organisations helped shape these questions, called the List of Issues, beforehand by submitting Pre-Sessional evidence to the Committee, you can read ours here.
During the interactive dialogue civil society will also have the opportunity to intervene, for example if we think the government may not be accurately representing the situation.
We have already submitted detailed written evidence in response to the List of Issues, here.
What happens next?
Once all of the evidence has been heard the Committee will convene and within 2 weeks will publish their Concluding Observations – their recommendations. We’ll be working closely with civil society allies across the UK to ensure our governments act on these.
You can send us love and support on Twitter @NourishScotland and #RighttoFood #CESCR
And most importantly – you can be an advocate for the right to food by talking to your political representatives about it. Three of the largest parties in the Scottish Parliament made manifesto promises on food, including to introduce a Food, Farming and Health Bill – if we want this Bill to progress rights-based approaches to food then our representatives need to know it’s something we all care about.
“What does a right to food look like, in practice, in Scotland?”
This was the question posed to participants at the end of last week’s Scotland’s Foodscape Symposium in Edinburgh. Rather than starting a discussion on the topic, however, we presented them with a piece of theatre – and then challenged them to change the course of the action.
Forum theatre is a technique developed by Augusto Boal in 1970s Brazil as part of his wider Theatre of the Oppressed movement that aimed to empower those alienated or victimised by socio-political structures. Evidently, oppressions we face in Scotland today are of a different nature but Boal’s methods are universally effective. Forum theatre is a means of actively inquiring into a complex issue.Read More
The elections have come around quickly! This is our sixth blog on our election asks; last but certainly not least, concluding with a call for community empowerment and strategic support for the community food sector in Scotland. You can find the other blogs of this series here: Holyrood Election 2016.
From consumers to citizens
We want to see all people in Scotland empowered and supported to act not merely as consumers but as citizens, actively shaping the food system we’re part of –at all levels, starting in our own communities and localities.
As consumers we are mostly at the mercy of a food system that only really cares about us in the brief moment we appear at the counter. It is focused on profit rather than on feeding us well or caring responsibly for the people and places implicated in bringing food to our plates. Those of us who don’t have money to purchase food are mostly left to seek charity.
When we realise we can act as citizens, however, we come together, we collaborate, we organise, we take things (back) in our own hands. This takes time and energy but we have seen this happening in the community food sector in Scotland and in the community sector as a whole, which have been growing considerably in strength and reach over the past decades.
Nourish wants to see the community sector thrive with communities owning, managing and supporting activity throughout the circular economy of food – urban and rural farms, bakeries, mills, apiaries, fishing boats, community gardens, allotments, closed-loop fish farms, orchards, shops, cafes and composters. We believe in a mixed economy of food, as part of which the private, public and community sectors all play a role in making sure the human right to food is fulfilled.
Why we need a strong community food sector
It’s not (only) about the food, as Rachel Gray from The Stop in Toronto never forgets to point out. Communities bring to food all the other stuff too– sharing a meal, doing useful work together, recognising and exchanging skills, fusing diverse cultures, building community assets, creating and reclaiming places between the domestic and the commercial, and looking out for community members who need extra help.
Hundreds of grassroots, volunteer-led organisations across Scotland dig shared gardens, organise shared meals, provide emergency food parcels, set up food co-operatives, plant and care for orchards, run festivals, support small farms, bake bread, share seeds, run breakfast clubs and lunch clubs, recycle surplus food, teach cooking and growing skills, and run shops and cafes. Some of these organisations just do food while others do food as part of their wider mission, whether that is health, community education, arts, childcare or leisure. Collectively they demonstrate just how powerful food is as a vehicle for social change.
A call for action
For the community food sector to make its fullest contribution to the wellbeing of people in Scotland, Nourish calls for the next parliament to:
Establish a Community Food Development Fund, distributed locally on the basis of population and need, to enable the community sector to offer emergency access to food in a dignified and inclusive way as part of a wider range of community services. Part of this could be the development of a network of “community food hubs”.
Include the right to healthy and sustainable food in the National Performance Framework and Single Outcome Agreements, and for local authorities to work closely with the community sector to deliver this outcome.
Support local authorities to use the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act (which was passed in July 2015) creatively to support the many different forms of community growing (allotments, orchards, gardens, etc.) and the decontamination and reclaiming of derelict and vacant land. Communities should be central to the development of local Food Growing Strategies as required by the Act.
To work with local authorities to reduce rents and rates for community shops, cafes and growing initiatives, and improve access to schools and other public buildings for use by local food groups.
To support a “national farmland trust”, together with the Scottish Land Fund, local authorities and social investors, which would work with communities to buy farms that can be rented securely to new farmers producing local food, following pioneering, international examples such as Terre de Liens in France and the Agrarian Trust in the USA. Changes should be made within planning arrangements to protect agricultural land for food growing, with specific attention paid to peri-urban land.
To provide support to the community food sector to scale up – for example, through working more closely with farmers to create short food chains, through expanding community food co-operatives, and through developing joint marketing and training programmes for community-run food gardens, orchards, bakeries or other artisan work, and shops.
All these actions need to be backed up by systemic measures facilitating genuine and wide-spread community empowerment in Scotland, as set out in the recent report ‘Local People Leading’ by the Scottish Community Alliance including step-changes in local democracy and the way public services are run.
In their manifestos, the SNP, Labour and the Greens have all committed to new legislation on food and farming. We welcome this cross-party agreement on the need for change, but we believe that any new legislation can only become truly transformative if it is underpinned by food democracy, which resonates with Nicola’s Sturgeon’s recently announced commitment to Open Government and co-production of policy – coined “The Scottish Approach”.
It is through politicians collaborating with communities and wider civil society in the design and implementation of food policies that we will create the best result. Food democracy is part and parcel of community empowerment.