​A Food Commission is fine – but food is better- Susan Dalgety

​As our Scottish parliamentarians parade around Holyrood, showing off their free merchandise while collecting a whopping salary of £68,000 a year, thousands of city residents are having to choose between eating and heating this Christmas.
Bethany Biggar, director of the Trussel Trust-led Edinburgh Food Project.Bethany Biggar, director of the Trussel Trust-led Edinburgh Food Project.
Bethany Biggar, director of the Trussel Trust-led Edinburgh Food Project.

​The Edinburgh Food Project runs seven food banks across the city, and last month delivered more food parcels than in November 2021 and 2022 combined. Staff and volunteers are now bracing themselves for one of their busiest months ever, with an estimated 2000 parcels going to people who can’t afford to eat during the festive season.

Everyone has been affected by the cost-of-living crisis. The cost of the weekly shop – or food inflation as the economists describe it – has risen at its fastest rate in 45 years. According to consumer experts Which? the vast majority of households – 80 per cent – have been forced to cut back on their food shopping. Basics like milk and cheese rose by around 25 per cent in the 12 months to March 2023, and while food inflation is dropping, it is still far too high at 10 per cent.

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If we can afford it, we can all make a donation to the Edinburgh Food Bank. Its most urgent items include tinned cold meat, long-life milk, cereal, rice and jam. Or you can make a cash donation online – just Google ‘Edinburgh Food Project’.

But our friends and neighbours shouldn’t have to rely on charity to eat. There is surely much more that our governments, working with the major supermarkets, could be doing to ensure that everyone can afford food.

Last year the Scottish Parliament passed the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill, which requires the Scottish Government, health boards and councils to create Good Food Nation Plans. And an independent Food Commission will be set up to oversee these plans.

Anti-poverty campaigners have welcomed the principle of a Food Commission, saying that it will reform our food system so that everyone has a right to affordable, healthy food.

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But I fear the commission – when it is eventually set up – will be nothing more than a talking shop. Meanwhile, thousands of people across our city – one of the richest in Europe – are going hungry. As the old saying goes, ‘fine words butter no parsnips.’

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