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How does community food work link into local policy?

The CFHS programme has been working with the Scottish Government and community food networks to map strategic and practical support for community food activities across Scotland. As part of this, we looked at how community food work fits into local government, Health and Social Care and other key local policies. We found community food activities within local plans or strategies in most local authority areas, but it varied which policies these were linked to and what activities were planned. Overall, there seemed to be synergy between action on the ground (i.e.: the range of community food activities available in an area) and actions planned in local policies. This blog post explores some of the themes found.

Please note that this mapping exercise was carried out in late 2021 and desk based, i.e.: we reviewed websites and social media. Some of the policies we found were written prior to the pandemic and some of these may have been updated since the mapping work was completed.

Affordability of good food and addressing poverty

All local authority areas have plans to try to address poverty. Many also specifically mention food poverty or food insecurity. Some focus more on fuel poverty, particularly the islands and highlands. Planned actions to address poverty or food insecurity can be found in many policies and plans, but particularly Community Plans, Local Outcomes Improvement Plans and Poverty strategies, including Child Poverty Action Reports. Here’s some of the actions planned to prevent or respond to food insecurity:

  • Income maximisation, advice or ‘cash first’ approaches were mentioned in several areas.
  • The use of shopping vouchers was being considered in a few places.
  • The development of social supermarkets, pantries, larders or fridges that make use of surplus food to provide low cost or free food was included in several areas and policies, including Community Learning and Development plans. Some focused more on the environmental benefits of sharing and re-distributing surplus food rather than as a response to food insecurity

Food growing and the environment

Many local authorities have produced Food Growing strategies. Most aim to provide information about what growing sites are available with plans to increase the number of sites. However, several areas also plan to:

  • Provide training or mentoring to support people to grow food
  • Support food growing in schools
  • Set up, or support food growing forums or networks
  • Increase opportunities to sell locally grown food

Plans to support food growing can be found beyond Food Growing Strategies, including Community Learning and Development Plans, Covid Recovery Plans and Poverty strategies. Some plan to promote food growing and food production to address the climate challenge and these planned actions can be found within Climate Action Plans. Food and Drink Strategies may also aim to increase access to locally produced food.

Access to, and take up of good food

Ensuring that we have access to, and consume good food was an issue that was scattered across a range of policies. These included:

  • Services for older people such as lunch clubs and shopping delivery services were mentioned in a few Local Outcome Improvement Plans
  • Supporting people to develop their cooking skills was included within some Community Learning and Development Plans and Local Outcome Improvement Plans
  • Supporting access to good food more generally was mentioned within several Food Plans as well as Community Plans, Health and Social Care Partnership Plans and Local Outcome Improvement Plans

Action: organisations working together

Most local authority areas across Scotland already have agencies and organisations working together on one or more food topic. Many were also working across food agendas.

The most popular model we found was agencies and organisations coming together as Sustainable Food Places (SFP). At least ten areas have established or are developing SFPs with more being planned. Some SFPs have produced Food Plans or strategies including Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Intentions to develop new SFPs were found in Community Plans and Poverty Action Plans.

A handful of areas were adopting a Whole Systems Approach specifically to tackle levels of obesity. Mentions of these were found within Community Plans.

Finally, some areas have produced Food Plans/ Fair Food Plans without being part of SFP.

Where to find out more about local and national policies 

More information about both local and national policy is available in the Making links with policy section.

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