THE Good Food Nation Bill is making its way through our Parliament, thanks in no small part to dedicated work by the Scottish Food Coalition, a collective of activists and stakeholders.

The bill means the Scottish Government would, for the first time, put into law an obligation on ministers and local authorities to put food at the heart of policy making. Consideration would have to be given to the social and economic wellbeing of communities as well as the impacts on our health and that of the natural world.

The proposed Human Rights Bill would enshrine the right to food in Scots law. This is increasingly crucial to many of us as food prices spiral upwards, forcing people into miserable circumstances.

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The bills will, in many ways, pull together of a range of initiatives enabling local authorities to make progressive, powerful changes to procurement and the delivery of food within communities. Around half of Scotland’s councils have a firm commitment to providing freshly prepared local food in their schools and the potential for positive change is impressive.

Jayne Jones is the commercial manager at Argyll and Bute Council. She speaks with passion about the importance of this initiative.

Breaking tenders into small lots provides opportunities for local businesses and creates a community-led environment. On the island of Islay, a local farmer and a local butcher provide fresh island produce to the children. Islanders work in the wee school kitchen.

“Local providers often like to stay small and serve their local community. We’re open to having conversations about that,” Jones says.

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She points to a supplier in Oban as an example of local procurement building sustainable networks. Jones says: “Ten years ago, he only provided fruit and vegetables in Oban but now, through the contacts created within the network, he delivers across a greater area. Dealing with the local authority gives him guaranteed quantities so he can do regular deals with local farms. It’s not always about economic growth but economic sustainability.”

When buying from national suppliers, Jones still tries to buy Scottish produce. “Buying local, buying Scottish – it is all about our green recovery as a nation, meeting our United Nations sustainability goals, working towards community wealth building, and creating good-quality local jobs.”

Faced with years of Westminster austerity and repeated budget cuts, many councils have slashed funding for school meals. Argyll and Bute has gone in the other direction.

“I view school meals as an investment in our children’s future,” Jones explains. “Good-quality food for children helps close the attainment gap and provides better health outcomes. The Flexible Food Fund helps us reach people who have never had to approach welfare for help before and are unaware of the support they are entitled to, like free period products, so this is a gateway to helping people in other ways too.”

Last week, the Scottish Food Coalition held a public meeting entitled Advancing the Right To Food where speakers discussed how to ensure the proposed food policy is a meaningful, integral part of human rights in Scotland.

Healthy, sustainable food is a fundamental need. Progressive local authorities are leading the way, delivering powerful wellbeing policies which build up our communities.

As we face this devastating cost-of-living crisis, now is the time to be demanding positive action from our elected representatives. As we approach the local authority elections in May, candidates should be left in no doubt this is a core issue they will be expected to deliver on.

Scotland is a wealthy nation. Let’s feed all our people the best our land has to offer.

Ruth Watson is the founder of the Keep Scotland the Brand campaign