Colette Walker: Why every public kitchen in Scotland can and should have local organic produce

Ben Wray

Colette Walker, women for indy national committee member and disabled person and carer to a disabled young adult, explains the vision behind her motion on food & drink, which was passed by acclaim at SNP annual conference

ON TUESDAY [9 October] at the SNP conference in Glasgow, I proposed a resolution to support Scotland’s food and drink sector which was passed by acclaim.

Scotland has had a ‘Good Food Nation’ Bill since 2014, but I have wanted to see more policies coming from it, so I decided to take a resolution through my constituency branch in Eastwood, East Renfrewshire.

Times are changing and we need to look at alternative ways to combat these changes. 

In the past eight months we have started to see the effects of climate change. In February we saw the ‘Beast from the East’, a snow storm which very quickly led to depletion of food in shops due to transportation issues. Only a few months later we experienced a spell of extensive heat with lack of rain, again damaging harvests.

As we are about to leave the EU against our will, with a ‘No Deal’ exit even more likely, there is huge concerns about where and how the UK Government will do food trade deals.

– What will their food regulation standards be?

– What will their health and safety stands be?

– What will their workers’ rights be?

Sadly, there is a high risk of increased exploitation for women and disabled people. There is a good chance the UK’s carbon footprint will increase if we are importing goods from further afield. And if food standards weaken it could lead to excessive use of pesticides and other chemicals on fruit & veg.

READ MORE: What does the Scottish Health Survey tell us about how healthy Scotland is?

We also have to take cognisance of the present situation, with the very upsetting statistics that one in three people in Scotland are obese, and rising.

It’s not only adults, but children too. Our children are our future, so something has to change and change now.

Obesity causes not only physical health issues but mental ill health issues too; lack of social interaction and fitness routines, which then causes an increased demand on the NHS.

I am fed up of Scotland being known by eating deep fried mars bars, and being ‘the heart attack capital of Europe’ due to our eating and drinking habits.

READ MORE – Judy Wilkinson: Can allotments be a disruptive force for change in Scotland?

Scotland is more than capable of being sustainable in its own right , we just have to readdress the policies within the Good Food Nation Bill for the benefit of all Scottish residents, farmers, the economy, and our environment .

With my resolution, I want every Scottish school, hospital, prison, nursing/care home, community centre and all other public kitchens to supply locally sourced organic produce.

This may seem like a big ask, but it has already been achieved in schools in East Ayrshire Council. They were the first council to be awarded the Food For Life Scotland Served Here (FFLSSH) gold award, and have won it for nine years consecutively .

They provided schools with locally sourced produce, supporting farmers, educating the pupils about where the food they eat comes from, and the benefits of eating a healthy, well balanced diet .

READ MORE – Dr Craig Dalzell: The surge in food poverty must be stopped – here’s some ideas for creating food security

Also another case study was carried out in Edinburgh Council. Liberton High school used an initiative that I am very interested in using for Scotland’s future food procurement; Polytunnels.

Polytunnels are a very versatile method of growing herbs, fruit and vegetables, which can be grown all year round.

They can be used in the local community, as it was done as part of the case study, or on a much larger scale on our farms.

The use of polytunnels ensures produce is able to grow all year round; no nitrogen, pesticides, or other chemicals required, which reduces carbon emissions.

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Produce is protected from spoilage by insects, and it will dramatically reduce food waste, as producers deliver what is required. We waste so much food in Scotland, so this is a major benefit. Because it is locally grown, we reduce our carbon footprint and we cut down on unnecessary food packaging.

Our children and the community as a whole can be involved in the process, educated on where and how our fresh fruit & veg comes from and is produced. They learn the benefits of eating fresh, local, organic produce, and will enable Scotland to be a much healthier nation. I long for the day we are seen as the healthiest country in Europe or better still the world. 

As a disabled woman, and a mother of a disabled young adult, I was ecstatic to learn that Polytunnels can be wheelchair accessible, which ensures everyone can be involved without restrictions.

I am looking forward to working with Common Weal, the Food Coalition and a few other interested parties to ensure every local council can make sure their public kitchens are supplying locally sourced organic produce.

Picture courtesy of Mr ATM