A Good Food Nation: for our health

In the 5th blog of our #GoodFoodNation series, we look at what the Good Food Nation Bill could deliver to help us all live long, healthy lives. Over the last few weeks we have been crowdfunding in an effort to gather funds that will enable us to run events and workshops to give everyone in Scotland a chance to have a say on what our food system should look like. If you want to help us do that, please consider donating before Sunday midnight and do share these blogs widely.

The current picture of our health is grim. Poor diets have become a major cause of ill health across all levels of income. We eat too little of what’s good for our bodies and too much of what’s not, and are losing years of good health and wellbeing as a consequence. What’s grimmest, is that even with good knowledge and intentions, it’s really hard to eat well and be healthy, because everything around us pushes us in the wrong direction.

The silver lining is that in Scotland we’ve moved away from blaming ‘individuals’ for making poor food choices and everyone agrees that our toxic food environment is the key issue we need to tackle to improve diets. Everyone also seem to agree that health inequalities are a huge challenge and addressing them should be a key priority of public health policy.

The Scottish Government’s “A Healthier Future – Actions and Ambitions on Diet, Activity and Healthy Weight” – also known as the Diet and Obesity Strategy consultation document –  shows that the Government is getting serious about obesity. They’re looking at restricting promotions and advertising on junk food, and may even use planning powers to better control food outlets around schools. Their full plan of action can be found here.

That’s encouraging, but not enough. We need solutions that match the scale of the challenge. The proposed actions may go some way towards reducing calories intake, but they won’t bring our diets much closer to the Eatwell Guide. If we are serious about improving diets so that what we eat doesn’t give us cancer, diabetes, or cardiovascular diseases anymore, we need to transform our food system so that healthy food becomes an easy, appealing, and affordable choice for all.

We’re trying to do just that – focusing on veg – with our Peas Please project: we are working with producers, retailers, caterers, manufacturers, and Local Authorities to make it easy for everyone to eat more veg. But there’s only that much we can achieve with the industry through a voluntary framework. We also need to work together as a society to transform our food culture. And, crucially, we need the Government to step up and do the rest through policy and legislation.

We need to better align our production with health objectives through the public subsidies spent on agriculture and the food and drink industry. We must ensure everyone in Scotland has enough money in their pocket – be it through fair wages, a strong social security system, or Healthy Start vouchers – to afford good quality fresh produce and that such produce is accessible for them. That means levelling the playing field and even providing special support for businesses who want to sell healthy and sustainable food – through planning rules and tax rates for example. We also need to stack the odds against junk food: ban advertising and regulate sales to the same extent as we have done for tobacco and alcohol.

The Good Food Nation Bill is our one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set the rules and guiding principles of our food system. At Nourish we have a pretty good idea of what we think that should be, but we don’t pretend to know everything, so we really want to give thousands of people in Scotland a chance to have a say on this in 2018.

Your donations to our crowdfunder will help us to do that. They will also support our other work on health: our participation in Peas Please and advocacy on the Diet and Obesity Strategy. We do not currently receive government or charitable funding to carry out any of this work, so every donation goes a great way.