Fair Food in Scotland by Nourish Scotland

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See here – http://fairer.scot/2015/09/11/fair-food-in-scotland/Scottish produce.

Scotland creates and exports some of the finest produce in the world.

Food in Scotland is often described as a paradox.We produce some of the finest produce in the world, and our grain, fish and dairy products are exported across the globe.

The industry is often cited as a success story, yet despite producing this bounty, many people in Scotland are unable to access sufficient food to feed themselves and their families.

In addition, our levels of diet-related ill health and obesity continue to rise.

Time for fairness with food
While the industry secures many vital jobs, especially in our remote rural areas, many farmers are struggling financially. And many people employed in agriculture, manufacturing and hospitality work long hours and are poorly paid.

Scottish produce on a table.
The industry is often cited as a success story, yet despite producing this bounty, many people in Scotland are unable to access sufficient food.

In addition, current agricultural practices contribute to our carbon emissions and can threaten our biodiversity.This doesn’t seem very fair. Nourish wants to see:

  • more fairness in our food system: for our families, our farmers, our workers and our planet
  • a transformation in how we grow, make, eat and access our food
  • Scotland produce more of what we eat and eat more of what we produce.

We believe that everyone has the right to sufficient, safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food.

Food is more than calories, profit margins and quotas: our food system and our food culture surrounding it could, and should, enhance our environment and people’s lives.

We believe that our farmers, producers and people who work with food have a right to a fair wage and to be treated with dignity and respect.

And we believe that it is possible to produce our food while looking after our environment and promoting animal welfare.

Ending hunger and achieving ‘food security’
The Scottish Government has become an early signatory to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 2 commits the Scottish Government to taking action to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. We fully support this goal.

But how can we make sure this commitment will become a reality and not remain an empty promise?

Food stall in market.
We believe that our farmers, producers and people who work with food have a right to a fair wage and to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • We need a meaningful national minimum wage, which reflects the true cost of living, so we can all afford to pay the bills and to feed ourselves. This should be underpinned by a benefit system that provides an adequate safety net, linked with advice services that can address specific needs.
  • We want to see continued investment in the grass-roots projects that help people grow, access, and cook food.
  • We want to see more development of our community food sector; perhaps by creating community food hubs that can join up food related work in an area and provide these services.
  • We want to increase our skill levels, providing training and development for people working with food and stimulating new food based start-ups, especially ones that deliver sustainably produced, healthy food.
  • We need to invest in – and reward – greener agriculture, reducing nitrate use and lowering carbon emissions.
  • Finally we need to invest in our supply chains, connecting producers with consumers, giving them the ability to develop local markets, and allowing consumers to buy locally and support their local businesses and local economy.
Nourish social media details.
Support good, clean, fair food – get involved on the Nourish website.

Producing our food is not just about inputs and outputs, it impacts on all of us.It can help deliver stronger communities, increased economic growth, environmental protection and a healthier diet – elements vital to any vision of a Fairer Scotland.

But it will only happen if our policy makers join the dots.

Tracey Reilly (Policy Manager, Nourish Scotland)

Catering & organics – learning from Denmark

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Would love to write this up into a fuller blog post soon but for now a collection of useful and interesting links to refer back to, regarding Denmark’s approach to organics in/and the catering sector.

Organic labelling for catering

Towards 100% organic

Organic Action Plan for Denmark

Organic Denmark – NGO

Copenhagen House of Food  (interview with Anya Hultberg by Lesley Riddoch here)

Danish organic chicken

Soil Association case study – Organic policy – learning from Denmark

Slow Food Youth Network Scotland

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I recently went along to one of the first meetings of the newly established Slow Food Youth Network in Scotland. Slow Food has been on my radar for a while, but with the exciting development of the SFYN, I finally managed to go along to find out more.

The establishment of the SFYN in Scotland occurred on the back of Carlo Petrini’s (SF founder) visit to Scotland in February (see earlier blog post) and is being driven for the meantime, during the initial stages, by Charlotte Maberly of QMU Gastronomy (her description of SFYNS below).

SFYN Scotland – what it is?

SFYN is an international network of young people who care about Good, Clean, Fair food for all. It is based in the Slow Food philosophy, supported by that international movement, but is its own entity. SFYN is a dynamic and flexible platform for speaking out about food issues which can include young people from all backgrounds and professions who care about food. In Scotland, it will be a positive voice of Scotland’s youth that is able to respond to local issues, but which is connected to a wider international network. More about SFYN international

What are we going to do?

SFYN Scotland’s online presence will connect young people across Scotland and internationally, to raise awareness, cultivate dialogue and create action around food issues.

SFYN often uses public, inclusive and visually engaging events to speak out on food issues. These include Eat-InsDisco Soups (click link to learn about culinary disobedience :), Film Festivals, public lectures, educational workshopsDrink-Ins, art exhibitions & installations, food growing projects … and anything else that can be imagined! 
 SFYN Scotland
Here are some things I learnt at the meeting:
  • There are many branches of the SFYN across the world – the group in the Netherlands is a particularly strong, active example.
  • SFYN – offers a single platform/voice for good, clean, fair food – crucially it is a platform for many voices – meaning it has a greater presence and power.
  • 97.3% of food in the UK is bought in supermarkets.
  • SF – focus on cultural diversity, biodiversity and indigenous food diversity through projects such as Ark of Taste and Terra Madre.
  • SF ethos is to celebrate and enhance the good, rather than focus on the bad – all about inspiring positive change.
  • SFYN – also a platform for campaigning effectively – a mechanism to teach others and affect change in local areas.
  • SFYN – there are no rules and no big infrastructure – it is very flexible and can do a huge range of things and respond to local issues – all from a perspective of positive change. It is organic and not reliant on funding.
  • SFYN Scotland aims to close the rural-urban gap in Scotland.
  • SFYN UK is holding a major event in Bristol on May 4th – an ‘Eat-In’ – for more see here.

Slow Food in Scotland links:

SFYN Scotland – facebook & twitter

Slow Food Scotland – formation at UK AGM & twitter

Slow Food Edinburgh website & twitter

Watch this space (or twitter) for the official launch event of SFYN Scotland!

FOOD SOVEREIGNTY: A SCOTTISH CONTEXT

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 Food Sovereignty was first proposed by the international peasants’ movement La Via Campesina in 1996. At its heart, it asserts that the people who produce and consume our food should be at the heart of our food system, rather than allowing global agribusiness to control the supply of this essential resource, exposing our food system to the vulnerabilities of the global financial market.

At an international conference in Mali a year later, the Declaration of Nyeleni was drawn up by over 500 food producers from 80 countries around the world, and laid out the six core ideas behind Food Sovereignty. Over the last few years whilst working on sustainable food projects in Scotland, we’ve been struck by the fact that, although originally written up primarily by peasant farmers from developing nations, the six pillars of Food Sovereignty are hugely applicable here in Scotland too. It is these principles which will guide the work of Common Good Food as week seek to build a better food system in Scotland, and below we consider the challenges we face.

You can read the full Decleration of Nyeleni here.

1. Food Sovereignty focuses on food for people

The basic purpose of a food system is to feed the population in a way that is fair and sustainable. It provides the nutrition essential to all human life, and is not a commodity that can be traded on the global financial markets like any other. In Scotland, as well as housing international banks that play with our food resources in this way, we are just as guilty as the emerging economies of the Global South for not focusing on food for people.

We have a government food policy which repeatedly prioritises high-end luxury food for export over producing nutritious staples for the local population. We continue to promote and subsidise the Scottish whisky industry as the example of how good Scottish food and drink can be, with 35% of our nation’s biggest crop, barley, going directly to making the golden tipple. When ministers justify this by repeatedly stating the industry is worth over £4bn per year to the economy (and ignoring the £1.1bn cost to society due to alcohol abuse each year) they reinforce the prevailing view that food is first and foremost a tool for economic growth, and not a way of feeding our population. Food Sovereignty challenges this, and asks fundamental questions about what food is for.

2. Food Sovereignty values food providers

It’s been a long time since we’ve truly valued food providers in Scotland. Our crofting laws may be unique, but they were motivated by the need to tie just enough peasants to the land so that large landowners had access to ready labour at certain times of year, not through any concern for the small-scale farmers themselves.

The dominance of our food retailing sector by so few large companies means they can cream off massive profits whilst paying our key food providers less and less for their products each year. There’s an irony in the fact that UK consumers will happily pay more for Fairtrade branded food from around the world, whenmore than half the dairy farmers in UK have gone out of business since 2002because they can’t get a fair price for this most basic of foodstuffs.

True, the economic viability of farming in Scotland is tied into a complex global market, made even more intricate by the baffling world of EU policy and subsidies. Whilst campaigning for change at this top level though, there is much that can be done locally to create a culture that truly values food providers. We can promote farming as a valuable and exciting career choice, providing quality training and support for new entrants to the sector along the lines of Nourish’s New Farmers Programme. We can make full use of the coming powers in the Land Reform and Community Empowerment Bills to make land available for primary food production. And we can reclaim the values of the Co-operative movement from a certain corporate behemoth, creating retail and distribution models controlled by producers, workers, and consumers equally.

3. Food Sovereignty localises food systems

We’ve spend the last few years working with the Fife Diet, exploring how we can use local food as a starting point for a sustainable diet, and we’ve come to realise what a huge mountain we have yet to climb on this front. Local food is not a fashion trend to be claimed by celebrity chefs and expensive restaurants, and it’s not just about frequenting your local farmers market. It’s about building short supply chains and infrastructure that not only gets fresh, healthy and affordable food into the communities that need it the most, but also provide the mechanisms which make small scale and sustainable farming economically viable, especially in terms of food processing.

We need mills close to arable farming areas, which allow farmers to grow and process small batches of grain themselves; local abattoirs, especially in crofting communities, so home-reared animals don’t have to be trucked to Dingwall for slaughter; above all else we need localised distribution and retail systems which ensure hard-working producers can get their product to the local population and know it is likely to be sold. Localised food systems don’t just mean lorries off the road and therefore lower carbon emissions – fully functioning local systems are the key to reducing costs and making local food an affordable, egalitarian option.

4. Food Sovereignty rejects corporate control of the food system

Perhaps above all else, this is where the food system in Scotland is most removed from the emergent economies around which the principles of Food Sovereignty were drafted. It’s hard to imagine life in Scotland without the big supermarkets on the edge of every town, without vending machines full of Coke products, or international purveyors of sugary confectionary sponsoring some of our biggest sporting events – this is the landscape we have grown up with, and we rarely question its validity.

But this is the challenge that the Food Sovereignty movement in the west faces, and Common Good Food wants to inspire popular imagination and demonstrate what food without corporate control could look like. We also want to encourage people use our collective voice and democratic rights to challenge any further corporate capture of the public sphere by giant food conglomerates, for example, the cynical attempts of the big four supermarkets to increase their brand recognition amongst our children through sponsoring education programmes in schools.

The recent activism against TTIP has also reminded us in the west that we are just as susceptible as the Global South to corrupt trade agreements, negotiated by unelected officials behind closed doors, which directly impact on the autonomy and sustainability of our food systems. Food Sovereignty is an international fight in which movements from around the world can join together to push for change in our own backyards.

5. Food Sovereignty builds knowledge and skills

Re-skilling and knowledge building will be a core part of the work of Common Good Food. Learning not just where our food comes from, but how you can participate in food growing, is the first stage for many people in demystifying our food system. When we realise that all food starts with fertile soil and a human hand, we begin to question the industrialisation and corporatisation of such a simple and essential daily task – eating.

We often talk of having lost skills, but that’s not entirely true – while many of us have become disconnected with the art and science of food growing, there are still thousands of people across the country working away on plots and in back gardens, nurturing generations of local knowledge. Common Good Food wants to work with communities to tap into this vital resource, and give everyone the opportunity to participate in our food system in the most fundamental of ways. Last year, we held the first national orchard gathering in a generation,  bringing together fruit novices with orchard experts to share learning and inspiration. This year we want to do the same, but focussing on seed saving – our crowdfunding campaign is raising money now to help make this happen in the Autumn.

6. Food Sovereignty works with nature

The Fife Diet explored food’s relationship with climate change, and how consumer choices can help mitigate some of the massive CO2 emissions produced by the food and agriculture sector – up to 1/3 of global emissions by some estimates. But the challenges we face go way beyond climate change – for too long we have applied a capitalist perpetual growth model to our food systems, assuming new technologies and developments will allow us to keep taking resources from nature to feed ourselves. We can’t – some things are just finite, and we have to work with, not against, nature to make the most of these.
On top of damaging climate change emissions, we have to address issues around how we use and manage water, how we make best use of the limited land we have in Scotland, and how we care for perhaps the most vulnerable of nature’s resources – soil. Anyone who has driven through Angus on a dry and windy day and witnessed this precious resource blowing through the air, drifting at the sides of the road like sand dunes, will have witnessed the scale of the problem we face in Scotland with soil degradation. Decades of intense agriculture in fine, silty soils has stripped our land of much of its fertility and its ability to nurture itself. And as we approach the impending peak of phosphorous production, and begin to run out of the processed additives big agribusiness relies on to make the whole system work, we also start to run out of time to come up with sustainable, working alternatives.
Common Good Food wants to explore ways to work with nature and build closed, self-sustaining systems, using organic principles, permaculture design, agroecology and forest gardening techniques. We’ll be working on a community, small-scale level, but hope to inspire and demonstrate that change on a local level can lead to a bigger system shift.
How we fix our food system is a massive question: we don’t have all the answers. But we think a Food Sovereignty approach provides a valuable framework to explore solutions both in Scotland and further afield. If you agree with us and like what we do, please help us get our exciting new project off the ground and click here to support our fundraising campaign running until the 26th April.

Exposed: top Scots universities dealing in arms and fossil fuels

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This seems shameful – Edinburgh Uni votes on divestment tomorrow, let’s demand change #EdinburghUniFossilFree.

Article can be found here.

Thinkstockphotos-468353338

​NUS Scotland exposes top universities’ unethical investments

Scotland’s universities are making millions on the back of unethical investments, a freedom of information (FOI) request has discovered.

Leading universities continue to invest in what the National Union of Students Scotland (NUS) deems harmful industries, such as fossil fuel exploration and arms.

In its FOI request it found nearly £16m is invested in companies involved in oil, gas and coal extraction, over £6m is invested in fossil fuel services and almost £3m is invested in the arms industry.

The University of Edinburgh, which at £291,806,852 has the largest investment portfolio in Scotland, invests almost £8.6m in fossil fuels, a further £5.9m in fossil fuel services, and £675,000 in the arms industry.

At the moment, many of them either don’t know or don’t care what companies their investments are supporting

The University of Strathclyde invested 10% out of its overall endowment of £27,040,000 into fossil fuel companies and 3% into arms.

And the University of Glasgow invested 5% out of its £43,327,918 endowment into fossil fuel extraction, and 3% into the arms industry.

It also discovered the University of Dundee, with an endowment of £21,039,968, invested 9% of its fund into oil, gas and coal.

Most of the institutions who responded recognised the need for socially responsible investment principles in their investment policy, but have no formal exclusions in place for companies that cause environmental damage or contribute to armed conflict.

NUS Scotland is now calling on universities and other publicly funded institutions to ensure they are investing their money in a socially responsible way.

“It’s shameful that Scottish universities are still pouring so much money into industries that are destroying the planet and fuelling conflict,” said Kirsty Haigh, NUS Scotland vice president communities. “Our institutions should be working to benefit not just their campuses but wider society as well, and we should expect more from them.

“At the moment, many of them either don’t know or don’t care what companies their investments are supporting.

“None of the reasons for divestment are contentious, and universities should recognise that and take action.

“Burning fossil fuels is causing disastrous climate change, and arms companies profit from conflict and human rights abuses. Our universities—who are at the forefront of world leading research, innovation and social progress—should know this better than anyone.”

Last year, the University of Glasgow became the first university in Europe to commit to fossil fuel divestment, and the University of Edinburgh are taking a decision on fossil fuel divestment later this month.