Food bank managers, Campaigners, Farmers and MSPs break bread in celebration of the right to food

Braving some of the worst weather of 2019, food bank managers, farmers and environmental and social justice charities shared a meal with MSPs outside of the Scottish Parliament in celebration of International Human Rights Day. 

The event, organised by the Scottish Food Coalition, was visually striking, with Coalition members and campaigners dressed in high-vis security jackets with labels such as “junk food advertising” or “lack of access to land.”  Representing the barriers blocking Scotland from achieving the Good Food Nation vision, they temporarily blocked MSPs from reaching the lunch table, using the opportunity to explain their concerns on the current food system. Coalition members noted that although every one of us has a right to food, this right is not incorporated into domestic law – so it is not justiciable or enforceable in Scotland. 

Pictured joining Scottish Food Coalition activists outside the Scottish Parliament are MSPs including Mike Rumbles (Scottish Lib-Dem), Emma Harper (SNP), John Mason (SNP), Clare Adamson (SNP), Elaine Smith (Labour), Colin Smyth (Labour, front right) and Sarah Boyack (Labour). With Neil Findlay MSP (back row centre).

Professor Mary Brennan, Chair of the Scottish Food Coalition, said: 

“Despite Scotland being ranked 16th in the OECD in terms of GDP/Head (higher than the UK) and having a highly regarded global food and drink industry with exports valued at £6.3billion in 2018, we are facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity and household poverty, a biodiversity and climate crisis, rising incidence of dietary related illness and the highest rates of obesity in Europe. Whilst reflecting different aspects of a single food system, all these challenges are all interconnected.

Today’s lunch outside Parliament will highlight the daily impact of some of these challenges – whilst also illustrating a future for Scotland that we can all believe in. A food system where the right to food is realised – from nutritious and affordable food for everyone, to healthy soils and seas, to fair working conditions for our butchers, our bakers, our farmers and our fishers.

The Coalition recognises this ambition will not be realised overnight, but that together we start on the journey towards this vision, with human rights providing the map to get us there, whilst protecting the dignity and wellbeing of our people and planet.”

Laura Ferguson, Operations Manager, Trussell Trust said:

“Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration – but for too many people it’s becoming harder and harder to keep their heads above water. We’re working towards a future where no one needs a food bank – everyone in Scotland should have enough money for a decent standard of living.

“It’s not right that anyone should have to use a food bank at any time of year – not just at Christmas. We need a Good Food Nation Bill, which ensures people have enough money coming in to cover at least the cost of food and other essentials. Together we can make a difference and stop people having to turn to food banks.”

Lilian Macer, Convener for UNISON Scotland said:

“The right to food includes workers’ rights to fair working conditions – a Good Food Nation where the right to food is realised would have workers across the food chain have decent wages, conditions and the highest possible standards of health and safety. We look forward to working with Ministers and MSPs to achieve these worthy ambitions.”

Andrew Strong, Assistant Director of Policy and Communications, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) said:

“Everyone in Scotland should have secure access to nutritious food, but for too many people in Scotland this is not the reality. People with long term conditions are twice as likely to be worried about running out of food when compared with the rest of the population, undermining their ability to self manage conditions and many of the Scottish Government’s health and social care priorities. It is time to enshrine the right to food into law so that we can join-up policy making and strive for an environmentally and socially just food system.”

Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead for Obesity Action Scotland said: 

“For too long the people in Scotland have been suffering the health consequences of a poor diet. We are outside of parliament on Human Rights Day supporting everyone’s right to food, which includes their right to access a healthy diet with dignity. It is essential that we improve the health of the food system, as it is inseparable to the health of the nation.”

Vicki Swales, Head of Land Use Policy for RSPB Scotland said: 

“Globally, food production and consumption are key drivers of climate change, biodiversity loss and wildlife declines. Scotland’s rich natural resources and less intensive farming systems mean we have huge potential to do things differently. We must ensure the Good Food Nation Bill takes the necessary steps to protect the integrity of our natural environment, and the wellbeing of Scotland’s people.”

Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator for Independent Food Aid Network said: 

“Over the past couple of years we have seen more and more people need food aid and we know even more people will need emergency support as Christmas approaches. This cannot continue – we need a coordinated approach to tackling the challenges facing our food system. We share the vision of a future in Scotland where there is no need for emergency food aid. A Good Food Nation bill that puts the right to food into Scottish law is a key opportunity to make this vision a reality.”

After hearing from the Coalition members, MSPs were then invited to share healthy and sustainable a meal at the “Good Food Nation Table” which was dressed with displays of local, seasonal and organic vegetables. The table also had signs describing a food system where the right to food was realised – such as “healthy soils & seas” “supply chains are short and transparent” and “animals are treated well.”

Despite the stormy weather, 11 MSPs came to join the table outside – including Angela Constance MSP, Sarah Boyack MSP and Elaine Smith MSP – all of whom have since supported the right to food in the debating chamber.

Interested in learning more about the right to food? Click here to watch a short animation on what the right to food means, and why it’s important to Scotland.