Shaping our Food Environment: Good Food Nation Bill

Written by: Stephanie Mander, Policy & Campaigns Officer, Nourish Scotland

Published: 17/03/2020

We currently have a rare opportunity to set the rules and guiding principles of our food system.

This week is Nutrition & Hydration Week – an annual event to highlight the importance of food and drink for health and wellbeing. There has never been a more imperative time to take a moment to reflect on the role that nutrition plays in all of our lives. The current picture of our health in Scotland is grim; we are facing an intergenerational health crisis, with individuals, communities and institutions undermined by poor health and diet-related diseases. For example, Scotland has an increasing prevalence of people with Type 2 diabetes; and diabetes costs NHS Scotland approximately £1 billion per year (this link will take you away from our website).

Too little of what we eat is good for our bodies, and too much of what we eat is not, and we’re losing years of good health and wellbeing as a consequence. Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer, for example, and is linked to thirteen common forms of cancer (this link will take you away from our website).

So, what’s the solution? Education you say? Sure – education has a part to play in this equation – but actually the research shows that there is good knowledge of healthy eating in the general public. Eating fruits and vegetables are recognised as important for a healthy lifestyle, and so is limiting the consumption of foods high in sugar and fat (this link will take you away from our website). People know what’s good and what’s bad for them – so education is not the silver bullet that it’s often made out to be in this debate.

Despite good public understanding, it is hard to eat well and be healthy. The good news is, in Scotland, we are increasingly moving away from blaming individuals for making poor food choices. More and more people are recognising that a toxic food environment is at the root of our poor diets. We need solutions that match the scale of the challenge; we need to transform our food system so healthy food becomes an easy, appealing and affordable choice for all. Nourish Scotland is trying to do just that: focusing on vegetables with our Peas Please project (this link will take you away from our website) and working with businesses across the supply chain to make it easier for everyone to eat healthily. Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be achieved with the industry through a voluntary framework – we need Government to step-up and do their part with policy and legislation.

This could mean:

  • ensuring everyone in Scotland has enough money in their pocket to afford a decent diet through fair wages and a strong social security system.
  • supporting businesses that are selling healthy and sustainable food.
  • better aligning our production and health objectives through public subsidies spent on agriculture and the food and drink industry.
  • restricting advertising and regulating sales of junk food to the same extent as we have done for tobacco and alcohol.

We currently have a rare opportunity to set the rules and guiding principles of our food system. The Scottish Government is introducing a new law on food, the Good Food Nation Bill. Nourish Scotland, alongside the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland and many others, through the Scottish Food Coalition, are working hard to ensure the Bill has people’s health and wellbeing at its heart (this link will take you away from our website).

This Nutrition & Hydration week, take a moment to learn more about how you can help to make sure the Good Food Nation Bill ensures a healthier, fairer and more sustainable food system.

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