The world is facing an immediate climate crisis, and we are beyond the stage of tinkering at the edges – we need brave, bold actions to tackle it head-on, and everyone has a role to play. The food system, one of the major drivers for this climate crisis, is stacked to support multinationals which exist to benefit shareholders rather than communities, and all too often taxpayers pick up the bill, whether by topping up wages which aren’t enough to live on, or in healthcare for people fed a diet of hyper-processed fats and sugars.
Every stage of the dominant food system, from the culture that decides the foods we eat through to the methods we use to grow, embeds habits and behaviours which work against us. In short, we know it’s broken, and have done for a long time – but we also know a lot of the solutions.
At Locavore we’re now in our tenth year of a mission to rebuild the food system into something which supports rather than damages, feeding our communities and our society rather than draining it of resources and feeding inequalities.
At the end of 2020 we asked our customers, suppliers and supporters to take part in the consultation of the Glasgow City Food Plan, and submitted our own response, which you can view here. This year, with Scotland due to host COP26 in our home city of Glasgow, and following the launch of the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration, we want to put forward our priorities for the next Scottish Government to support a revolution in Scotland’s relationship with food and rebalance it into something positive for people and for the environment.
Out of the many things we want to happen, these are our top five actions which we would ask all parties to consider.
1. Commit to Organic
Organic is still wrongly presented as niche, expensive, or elitist. We should see the current system of intensive monocultures driven by chemical inputs as something none of us can afford to support. In a post-Brexit Scotland, we need more than ever to ensure Scottish farmers are supported to convert to organic production.
A wholehearted embrace of organic agriculture would lead to a more sustainable food chain, with benefits including supporting greater biodiversity, hitting emissions reduction targets, and health and wellbeing outcomes for everyone.
To drive this change, we call for the following:
- An organic land target of 25% by 2030 to bring us in line with the EU;
- Increased grants to support producers in their conversion to organic;
- Use public procurement policies to support the development of markets for organic.
2. Support the right businesses
Even after years of diminishing control, public sector bodies have influence not just through legislation, but by choosing where to spend public money. All too often, this has been dictated by a drive for value based on low cost, with multinational outsourcing companies making vast profits for services of questionable quality.
We use the money which customers spend with us to support producers who align with our values, and by doing so we have helped support them and the communities they are based in. We believe the public sector can play the same role, creating and supporting markets which will bring more producers into truly sustainable production.
To support this, we call for:
- Increased support for Social Enterprises, Community Owned Business, Cooperatives and SMEs to participate in tendering processes, with robust criteria including requiring businesses to pay the real Living Wage, and to operate in truly sustainable ways.
- A move of funding and support away from multinationals and towards progressive business models such as social enterprises, community owned business and cooperatives.
- Implementing a test for ‘social good’ for all public funding, including ensuring employers pay proper, fair wages, and pay their taxes to support the system they operate within.
3. Grow the Markets
Even before Covid, we have seen the result of 30 years of corporate influenced policy hollowing out the physical heart of our communities, the High Street, ripped apart by combined high rents and big-box superstores. This hasn’t just resulted in empty storefronts or a limited choice of coffee shops – whole communities have limited or no local access to fresh produce, or to any fruit or veg, widening health inequalities still further.
We’d like to see:
- An assumption in planning against new out of town/ car based retail, supermarkets and Amazon fulfilment centres and a rapidly rising tax on these which would be used to fund sustainable development in town centres in line with the Wellbeing Economy.
- Business incentives to support local High Streets
- The return of local community markets, not as tourist attractions but as walkable, regular food destinations, enabling new businesses to grow, as well as providing easy local access for communities.
- Practical support for small scale food producers, for example through projects providing rentable kitchen space.
- Campaigns encouraging people to move some of their household spending to local high streets and small businesses.
4. Bring it Home
We think it’s time for a shift in our national food culture, and to address what’s often referred to as the Scottish paradox, where we feed export markets a myth of Scottish wilderness whilst bemoaning or celebrating a deep fried culture that creates massive health problems. For too long a handful of multinationals exporting whisky and environmentally destructive salmon have been king.
Whether looking at system-wide issues of food supply across borders because of Brexit, or food poverty highlighted by COVID, food security will be talked about a lot during the election, and rightly so. Actual food sovereignty goes beyond dealing with emergency food relief, and as we look again at our position in the world, this is the time to look at how we feed ourselves.
To support this shift, we call for:
- A move away from the long held focus on what Scotland can export to the rest of the world and instead look at what we could produce for ourselves.
- A focus on sustainable, economically beneficial and socially useful projects such as growing more of the food we eat and eating more of the food we grow.
- A campaign to create local markets for locally produced foods, for example wild venison to allow woodland to regenerate, or to get more people eating sustainable seafood from our seas.
5. Start Them Young
We learn our eating habits young, and they stick. Shifting the national food culture needs to start in schools, and has to include everyone. As with baby boxes, Finland shows us a viable model for change, with free school meals for all pupils, throughout their entire time at school. Ensuring food in schools is based on Food for Life standards would bring immediate benefits in dietary health, as well as longer term benefits in consumption patterns.
To support this, we call for:
- Organic & local food procurement targets.
- All schools to have Gold Food For Life by the end of the new Parliament.
- Universal free school meals, across all school years, using healthy, local ingredients.