Leslie Hinds: We all have a role in fair food

Get your teeth into the Edible Edinburgh project. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
Get your teeth into the Edible Edinburgh project. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
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Everyone has a part to play to help make Edinburgh a fair food city, from the council, NHS and universities to private businesses, voluntary organisations, community groups and individuals – the ­Edible Edinburgh plan shows how we can pull together, pool ideas and promote ­positive action for a fairer, sustainable food city.

Edible Edinburgh’s Sustainable Food City Plan is nothing if not ambitious. Launched recently in Muirhouse it sets out how, by pulling together, we can achieve the vision of making Edinburgh “a city where good food is available and accessible for all, making for healthy people, thriving communities and a sustainable environment”.

Making Edinburgh a fair food city is central to our task. Too often poverty and inequality mean that household food budgets are squeezed to the limit. Edinburgh Community Food addresses food poverty by providing good quality, affordable food to a network of food co-ops and community food groups as well as providing a programme of food skills sessions. Some communities in Edinburgh experience more food poverty than others and this is why we chose to launch the plan in Muirhouse.

Edible Edinburgh is focused on pulling together our efforts to improve sustainability, address inequalities and promote health – something groups such as North Edinburgh Arts, Muirhouse Community Shop and Granton Growers have been doing for years. They have much to teach key decision-makers in the city about the interconnectedness of these issues.

Edible Edinburgh can play a part in bringing community voices to the places where decisions are made.

Key players are represented on the Edible Edinburgh steering group and there is still much to be done to ensure that decisions about what kind of food we have in our hospitals, colleges, schools and workplaces are driven by the need for healthy, seasonal and locally sourced food choices, as well as by cost.

Edible Edinburgh’s plan sets out where we need to be by 2020 in relation to six priority areas for action: health and wellbeing, land use, environment, buying food, economy and cultural change. It also pinpoints where efforts need to be concentrated now and builds on partnerships, with a steering group representing 20 organisations including Edinburgh City Council, NHS Lothian, the ­universities and colleges, private ­businesses, voluntary organisations and community groups.

The initiative argues for immediate action by partners in the following areas: action to make more land available for community growing; expanding and protecting the role of community food groups; further reduction in food waste; action on food poverty including alternatives to food banks; exploring ways to make food procurement better; investigating ways to increase skills and employment in the food sector and finding ways to ­measure what is being achieved.

Cultural change is at the very heart of Edible Edinburgh’s vision. We are all on a journey to transform our relationship with food. The first steps may seem small – cooking more from scratch, growing our own, eating seasonal and locally produced food or putting good food at the heart of our community and social activities. But from these small beginnings can come major change – if enough of us get involved then together we can make Edinburgh a fair, sustainable food city.

Lesley Hinds is the city council environment leader