Opinions

Bring on the Bill: The time is right for the creation of a Good Food Nation

Written by: Andrew Strong, Assistant Director (Policy and Communications), the ALLIANCE
Illustration of people holding up various food and drink types, with the captions 'Health' and 'Nutrition' above

Legislating for a Good Food Nation can tackle an injustice that disproportionately affects people living with long term conditions.

The connection between long term conditions and food insecurity is stark. Not only are people living with long term conditions more likely to experience food poverty, the impact it can have on have on their ability to self manage can be significant. They have often highlighted to us that poor access to healthy alternatives affected their health and wellbeing. Healthcare professionals have also recently expressed concerns that both the quality and quantity of diets can have on conditions including diabetes and COPD.

As the Scottish Food Coalition (this link will take you away from our website) has recently acknowledged, food is at the heart of some of Scotland’s biggest challenges, from inequality to ecological damage. Many people are priced out of a decent diet, reliant on foodbanks and experiencing the consequences of poor nutrition.

Previously, the ALLIANCE’s Self Management Fund has supported a number of initiatives related to healthy eating and projects like Eat Well Age Well (this link will take you away from our website), funded by the Big Lottery, are aiming to help reduce the risk and incidence of malnutrition in older people. But more coordinated action is required.

The Scottish Government has recognised this issue and identified a possible solution. In A Nation With Ambition, the Programme for Government 2017-18 (this link will take you away from our website), the Government said they would consult on proposals for the Good Food Nation Bill this year.

We are, however, still waiting for publication of this document.

A new law, with accompanying guidance, can make sure that progress and accountability could be at the centre of how our food system works. We’d like to see a public debate on a range of progressive measures – such as the incorporation of the right to food in Scots law, a new statutory body to ensure progress is made or new duties on public bodies – we’d like the opportunity for our members to highlight their views and feel heard.

As such, the ALLIANCE, alongside other members of the Scottish Food Coalition, are calling on the Scottish Government to “Bring on the Bill” and publish a consultation as soon as possible.

In doing so, we’ve proposed a range of suggestions on how a “good” consultation could be carried out. Based on the ALLIANCE’s wide ranging experience of consulting people across Scotland and the issue specific food related issues raised during the Scottish Food Coalition’s recent Kitchen Table Talks (this link will take you away from our website) across Scotland, the suggestions include investing time, effort and resources into designing and delivering an inclusive consultation process, the meaningful engagement of seldom heard groups from across Scotland and targeted action to support people who may have barriers or resource constraints which may prevent them from being involved.

Never has there been a more timely moment for action. Bring on the Bill and improve the food system for everyone.

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