World Food Day: Growing, nourishing and sustaining together
The theme of this year’s World Food Day is to grow, nourish and sustain together. The coronavirus pandemic has placed huge strain on people and communities all over the world. But it has also accelerated action at a local and national level to tackle food insecurity here in Scotland.
Lindsay Graham is a member of the Social Renewal Advisory Board which is advising the Scottish Government on how to build on the positive policy and practice shifts seen during the pandemic to tackle disadvantage and poverty, and advance equality and social justice.
The pandemic has impacted us all in many ways. What are your reflections on the impact it has had on people accessing food?
The pandemic has affected people and communities in Scotland’s access to food at all ages and stages of life and it has been a particularly difficult time for our most vulnerable groups. Our elderly, homeless, single parents, people with no recourse to public funds and those who were already struggling with cost of living on a day-to-day basis.
In the early stages of the pandemic we saw panic buying, which had a knock-on effect of putting pressure on community groups trying to source food for those at-risk groups. We learned lots of lessons on the value of local community networking and long-established relationships built by the charitable sector.
The pandemic has shone a light on our food system inequities and has brought home the stark reality of how reliant we have become on food aid due to lack of income. It also has made all sectors think about how we need to build a more resilient and fairer food system for Scotland.
We are seeing new ways of collaborative working between sectors including councils, health, charitable and business. There is a clearer understanding of the expertise and resource each area brings. A huge amount was achieved in a truly short space of time. Procurement, logistics, volunteers, safety guidelines and communications were all key to keeping our communities safe, connected and able to access food in a time of crisis.
There’s been so much happening across Scotland to support people and communities. Can you share some of examples of ways in which communities have helped each other to grow, nourish, and sustain together?
Even before the pandemic struck community groups across the country were leading some truly inspiring projects. I have been fortunate to talk to some amazing people just working away to keep people engaged and cared for while offering support, skills-sharing, education, a friendly ear and much more. There is kindness and compassion in Scotland’s communities that often goes unseen and uncelebrated and I hope that once this pandemic passes we will make time to recognise and acknowledge those unsung ordinary people who helped for no other reason than it was the right thing to do.
It’s difficult to point to any particular project as there have been so many, so I am going to share some links that people can look at for some I have found to be inspiring.
Fem Foods in Glasgow: Empowers women to cook with confidence on a budget @FemFoods
Crops in Pots Edinburgh: Leith Community Croft
Lanarkshire Community Food and Health Partnership Bargeddie: Supporting local communities to improve their health through better diet and access to low cost nutritious food.
There are so many folks in Scotland doing wonderful work on food, growing, education and more. I would highly recommend visiting the Community Food and Health Scotland website to see what is happening on your door step.
I would also like to pay tribute to the statutory services run by our local authorities and public health bodies. Our school catering, hospital kitchens, care homes providers and meals-on-wheels services along with our community care teams who have been working long hours to keep people nourished and connected.
What do you think are the big challenges ahead?
With my former community nurse hat on that I feel developing a vaccine for coronavirus (COVID-19) is the biggest challenge we face at the moment.
We will have several months of continued restrictions on our daily lives until we have succeeded in finding that much needed vaccine.
Our food system has been tested like never before and we have learned lessons about the importance of supporting local providers and producers and that a one-size approach does not fit all. We need to ensure that we take into account the diversity of our communities and the dignity required to ensure all our citizens have their needs met in a way that is right for them.
The pandemic will continue to affect our economy and the inevitable job losses will hit household incomes. Often food is the only flexible part of a family budget so we will need to ensure that our benefit system is ready to support those who need it.
We also have Brexit fast approaching and that will most certainly have an impact on our supply chains. Our winter months are coming and that will mean higher fuel bills and cost of Christmas. The education of our young people has been interrupted and for some that also has meant missing a hot school meal. Possibly their only hot meal of the day. I don’t think school meals and community meals programmes have ever been more important. Our elderly are particularly vulnerable and projects that keep them safe and well nourished are vital to our recovery.
What are the big shifts during the pandemic that you think we should keep to help us in recovery, renewal, and working towards our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals?
I think those community partnerships that have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic are hugely important, new and old alike. We should build on the lessons learned from that collaborative working, both the successes and where we got it wrong. We need to be honest about what lies ahead for the short, medium and long term – stronger resilience planning for a more equitable food system that has human rights at its heart is what we should strive for.
If we truly aspire to be a Good Food Nation we need brave and bold policies that support our local producers and providers. Tourism and hospitality are part of Scotland’s life blood and the sector offers careers and supports our economy. That industry will need help to get back on its feet if we are to thrive.
It’s important to find ways to monitor and measure the impact of our decisions so that we keep investing wisely in making headway to a fairer society.
Involving our citizens in rebuilding our food system is crucial to recovery and our young people need to be at the forefront of the decisions we are making. They are, after all, Scotland’s future.
Don’t forget that Friday 23rd is the closing date for the Social Renewal Advisory Board’s call for evidence and ideas, tell us what you think.