This policy brief seeks to tackle our current disconnect towards sustainable food systems that hinders the societal transformation necessary for a liveable future. Through the lens of democratisation, we examine how Edinburgh can develop a socially just and environmentally sustainable food system predicated on equitable access to and active community participation in our city’s local food networks and initiatives.
Isabella Flora Chambers
Hannah Jean Clark
The aim of this policy proposal is to provide actionable policy recommendations for the move towards a more democratised, sustainable food system in the City of Edinburgh. By democratising food sustainability, we mean: all citizens have the resources, knowledge, and support in order to access, participate in, and have a positive impact on the sustainability of our local food networks. This central goal fundamentally aligns with definitions of food sovereignty which highlight the importance of community autonomy and personal agency in making decisions about our food.
The democratisation of Edinburgh’s food system is a crucial and worthwhile endeavour for many reasons. In 2019/2020, 16% of Scotland’s population were living with “marginal, low or very low food security” (data.gov.scot, 2021). This largely correlates with poverty rates, with 59% of those living in absolute poverty experiencing some form of food insecurity (data.gov.scot, 2021). However, this can also be related to issues of inaccessibility, geography, physical health, and now due to the Covid-19 pandemic, isolation periods (TFN, 2021; healthscotland.scot, 2021). In light of this, it is clear many of the most marginalised demographics in Scotland are unable to make autonomous decisions regarding their diet, with reliance on food banks, family and friends (healthscotland.scot, 2021) for food access denying them the right to agency and sovereignty.
Solutions to food poverty in Scotland have been proposed by many, such as the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty in their report, ‘Dignity: Ending Hunger Together in Scotland’ (gov.scot, 2016) and the Scottish Government’s consultation on ‘Ending the need for food banks’ (gov.scot, 2021). There are also ongoing efforts to improve, and ultimately implement, a ‘Good Food Nation Bill’ (Nourish Scotland, 2021). Our research aims to build upon this work to envision an environmentally sustainable food system which is inclusive of all citizens, while also encouraging engaged participation of communities in Edinburgh with their local food network. As there are many active organisations and community projects in Edinburgh delivering incredible contributions to this goal already, we draw from their expertise and depth of understanding throughout the report.
The following policy recommendations are based upon research conducted through stakeholder interviews and a public participation survey, as well as analysis of secondary sources. They aim to tackle the need for improved access to sustainable food and participation in Edinburgh’s local food system in tangible and practical ways.