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Why becoming a Good Food Nation will be good for our health

Lesley McCranor, Executive Manager at Healthy Valleys, talks about the Scotttish Government’s Good Food Nation consultation …

In 2017, 65% of adults aged 16 and over were overweight, including 29% who were obese. (NHS Health Scotland Nov 2018). Therefore, it may not be surprising to learn that Scotland has the fifth highest prevalence of obesity compared to other countries worldwide when almost two thirds of adults are overweight or obese.

For children, families and older people living in disadvantaged circumstances, poor health is a serious matter of concern. This is further exacerbated when living in a rural community where there are scarce amenities. It makes it doubly hard for a family living on benefits or the minimum wage to afford healthy food choices. This is mainly due to a lack of accessibility, lack of affordability and lack of availability to healthy food.

When families do not have easy access to grocery stores, obtaining healthy food requires an unreasonable amount of time and money. Our rural public transport system is unreliable and expensive. It is often the case, that people living in food-insecure areas turn to snack bars, fuel stations, convenience stores and fast-food restaurants (if they exist) for their primary nutrition (Santucci, 2017). These sources of food are typically less healthy than fresh produce and what they could purchase at a grocery store.

Healthy Valleys is a community led health initiative, established in 2003 by community members, voluntary and public sector agencies. Our vision is to reduce health inequalities, promote positive lifestyles and improve health and wellbeing in rural South Lanarkshire communities.

Healthy Valleys welcomes the intentions set out within the Good Food Nations consultation. It is an important document for everyone living and working in Scotland as poor diet contributes significantly to the main causes of death and poor health in Scotland, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Healthy Valleys is particularly interested in reducing health inequalities and the ambitions set out in the consultation document will take steps to reduce the inequality gap.

On a daily basis, Healthy Valleys staff and volunteers witness the impact of the Welfare Reform. We have seen a significant rise in demand for all our community led health improvement programmes from mental health support to reducing food insecurity. Our community cafes have expanded from one location to an additional five sites and operate on a weekly basis.

So what’s on offer at our cafes? People can drop in and have a bowl of soup, tea and coffee and have a chance to chat, make new connections and friendships. Different agencies attend and are on standby to offer support from CAB to Women’s Aid for those who are in need of some extra help.

Our Cooking and Training Academy is thriving at our new Community Hub in Lanark, where we offer a range of accredited REHIS and other food education and training courses. Participants are encouraged to take up other opportunities that are available from joining our walking groups and our weight management programme.

Together we must embrace the ambitions set out within the Good Food Nation consultation document to improve the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s population.

Lesley McCranor, March 2019

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