Being a Good Food Nation will have an impact on many parts of Scottish life. This agenda will need to be pursued systematically and with perseverance. But not everything can be done at once. Priorities need to be set, taking account of what matters most, the availability of resources and people’s ability to cope with change.
It will be for the Commission to recommend priorities. However, the Scottish Government intends to propose early action in the following areas:
1 Food in the public sector
It is vital that the public sector leads by example. Whilst in stark economic terms the impact of public sector food may be relatively low, public food has enormous symbolic importance. Society rightly has high expectations for the quality and provenance of public food. Equally, stable public sector contracts can offer a predictable demand which provide opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises ( SMEs) to consolidate their businesses and scale up activity
We should be ambitious for public food by:
- Championing fresh, seasonal, local and sustainable produce.
- Celebrating provenance and ethical sourcing.
- Ensuring food in public settings provides affordable access to good nutrition, and exemplifies the Good Food Nation ideal.
- Inspiring future generations who are proud of, and contribute to, Scotland’s ambition as the ‘Land of Food and Drink’.
Leadership will be key. The NHS and local authorities will, alongside the Scottish Government, be key to progress. They will be building on successes such as the food and nutrition standards introduced in schools, the Healthy Living Award Plus in hospitals and the Food for Life Catering Mark which focusses on fresh, seasonal and local food.
More than ever there is a strong awareness in all parts of the public sector about the significance of sustainable purchasing. The procurement reform agenda gives scope to harness the full potential. The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill will establish a national legislative framework for the new Scottish model of procurement, which looks at outcomes not outputs. It aims to use the power of public spend to deliver genuine public value by achieving the best balance of cost, quality, health, and sustainability.
The reform agenda recognises that public sector expenditure on food has the potential to unlock benefits for community health, well-being and social justice through access to good nutrition and that It can also bring market opportunities in a sector where there are a high number of SMEs. The 2011 guidance Catering for Change – buying food sustainably in the public sector is now a key part of the landscape for the procurement of food. Future guidance will include the promotion of sustainable, healthy, authentic food standards with high standards of traceability.
There is a need to go beyond simply applying requirements to public bodies and make it attractive for suppliers to play their part too. We need to go further in ‘unbundling’ contracts into smaller lots, offering improved opportunities for food producers and SMEs. Procurement Centres of Expertise need to play a vital role in maximising opportunity, calibrating supply capacity and demand in the regional Scottish supply chain and fully exploring opportunities for collaboration on food procurement.
However despite huge strides there is still a perceived complexity in tender processes and the required food safety and quality safeguards for food and drink that are asked for in contracts. We must create a thriving and resilient food and drink industry in Scotland so there is a real need to ensure Scottish food and drink businesses can step up to compete successfully for public food contracts. Independent supplier accreditations give due diligence assurance to pubic bodies, food service distributors, the retail and hospitality sectors are vitally important for maintaining Scotland’s outstanding reputation for quality.
Public food can and must be at the core of our journey to becoming a Good Food Nation.
2 A children’s food policy
There is a strong case for focusing much of our attention on Scotland’s children, from pre-school onwards. The impact of food on the health of young people is relevant for their own eating habits, development and their ability to influence wider societal issues for generations to come. If we are serious about addressing children’s wellbeing and ensuring Scotland is the best place to grow up, we must be serious about addressing issues around the food which affects them.
Food and health is now part of the broad general education that all children and young people will experience through Curriculum for Excellence, with teachers encouraged to embed food as a topic for interdisciplinary learning. Additionally, on the back of significant public sector funding, school and nursery food – in terms of nutrition, ambiance and indeed attractiveness – is much better than a decade ago. Initiatives like Better Eating Better Learning ( BEBL), Beyond the School Gate ( BTSG) and Food for Life are driving real change.
To maintain this momentum there is a need to put a concerted effort into driving this agenda forward, not just in schools but in all the different areas of life where food is important to children’s wellbeing. This may mean seeking to accompany recent policy initiatives with a tangible aspiration for all schools in Scotland and developing a bespoke Children’s Food Policy. This new food policy would build on progress from policies such as BEBL, BTSG, and Getting It Right For Every Child, identifying gaps and working across the range of sectors to ensure every child has access to healthy sustainable food understands its importance and has a stronger connection with where it has come from and how it was made. In taking this forward, we shall need to recognise the full complexity of the issues at stake including the many factors which drive children’s behaviour. We shall want to work in tandem with those seeking to address these factors, for example, working in close partnership with those seeking to increase levels of physical activity.
3 Local food
There is a burgeoning interest in local food. Local food initiatives are thriving the length and breadth of the country. A key to our aspiration will be working with communities, seeking to embed change relevant to their circumstances. In achieving this, one of the key assets will be the energy and creativity behind local food.
This is in part about encouraging the production and sale of locally grown food in all its shapes and sizes. This enriches our lives, promotes local economic growth and helps reconnect us with our food. In many ways this movement has a life of its own. Any national activity should focus on finding ways to make the most of that energy. This is partly about giving the movement a focus, celebrating frequently its success and, crucially, extending its reach beyond the middle classes.
There is much we can do to help ensure that everyone in Scotland has the opportunity, skills and confidence to access an affordable, healthy and balanced diet for themselves and their families. Part of the solution may lie in increasing significantly in scale programmes such as the Healthy Living Programme and community food hubs which have been a success in tackling inequalities through food. It also lies in ensuring other existing initiatives, such as integrating health and social care, take full account of the potential benefits of nutritious local food. There are also new possibilities here. The provisions in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill relating to allotments and local food growing strategies set an important new framework, we need to use the momentum behind this new aspiration to help drive our partnership with local authorities and others to make these policy intentions a reality in every locality.
4 Good food choices
Long-lasting behavioural change is the key to becoming a Good Food Nation. This will apply to farmers, fishermen, food processors and producers, public bodies, caterers in all their guises and communities as a whole. Retailers, whose reach impacts on almost every aspect of food and drink – sometimes controversially – will have a particular role to play. Their support will be a powerful force in helping us on our journey.
But the key to real progress will be all to consumers. Without their buy-in, others simply will not follow. This highlights the importance of education, information and maintaining the food conversation. We should prioritise our implementation of ‘Supporting Healthy Choices’, showing that we are serious about steady material progress, whether by reformulation, marketing or other means. But we need also to develop – and stick with – more sophisticated ways of achieving changed behaviours. Culture and behaviour are, according to all the evidence, very difficult to change in this area. The evidence suggests that poor diet can often be as much about a lack of empowerment to make choices as about a lack of available (and affordable) choices.
The Scottish Government will ask the Commission for advice on how best to do this, building on global knowledge and the evidence base and where necessary expanding that evidence base for Scottish circumstances. There is a case for simplifying the key messages and the range of delivery mechanisms; reducing radically the current plethora of definitions of what constitutes sustainable food. We should stick closely to an approach based on celebration and class neutrality.
5 Continued economic growth
This focus on improving Scotland’s relationship with food and drink will not be a threat to the economic health of the sector. On the contrary, we shall begin to enjoy the following virtuous cycle. The more progress we make on our domestic food culture, the more our reputation will be enhanced as a Land of Food and Drink in every sense, to the clear benefit of the sector’s economic performance.
Nevertheless, it is vital that the Scottish Government and others continue to support the economic pillar of the policy. The food and drink industry employs over 350,000 people in Scotland and its continued success will be a key component of Scotland’s economic wellbeing and continued sustainable growth. However, some parts of the sector are either fragile or slow to make the most of the opportunities ahead; some of the steps we need to take are:
- Implementing the new, more ambitious export strategy developed in partnership with the industry, including new dedicated resources overseas.
- Ensuring that the exciting new market opportunities feed through to confidence in primary production, especially beef, dairy, poultry, and seafood. This will include the implementation of an ambitious beef improvement scheme, designed to secure a sustainable future for Scotland’s beef sector following reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
- Supporting the continued development of the Scotland Food & Drink partnership which has created clarity of purpose for the industry and forged a unique partnership between the sector and the Scottish Government.
- Ensuring training is available which is fit for purpose to deliver the skills required for the 5,600 new employees the sector is predicted to need by 2018.
- Encouraging increased levels of research, contributing to increased and more effective innovation.
- Taking the opportunity of the new EU funding round to ensure the sector benefits from clear, streamlined sign posting to sources of support.
- Strengthening the local food economy and shortening supply chains.
Please email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 17 October 2014.
9. Do you agree with the proposed initial focus on:
- Food in the public sector
- A children’s food policy
- Local food
- Good food choices and
- Continued economic growth?
10.Which other areas would you prioritise?
11.What other steps toward achieving a Good Food Nation would you recommend?
12.What else should be considered?
Telephone: 0300 244 9802
Food, Drink and Rural Communities