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Report serves up new way to measure the right to food

assorted sliced fruits

The right to food – the right of every person to live and eat with dignity – will be part of the new Human Rights Bill due to be introduced in 2024. It will require the Scottish Government to work towards ensuring that everyone in Scotland can enjoy an adequate diet. Nourish Scotland set out to establish what this ambition looks like in practice. 

“Firstly, we worked with people throughout Scotland to determine what an adequate diet is.” said Dr Chelsea Marshall, Senior Policy Officer at Nourish Scotland and the author of the report. “Together, we developed case study families and, with support from nutrition experts, worked out everything each family would need for a balance of foods that are enjoyable, a good fit for their lives and healthy ‘enough’.

Dr Marshall continued “We balanced the healthy aspirations for home cooked meals with plenty of fruit and veg, such as Spaghetti Bolognese and fajitas, with realities of shift-work and childcare demands. This in turn allowed us to measure the cost of a list of specific items over the past year, and how affordable and accessible this is for families in Scotland”. 

Compared to December 2021, the overall cost of the shopping lists developed by the project increased 15% – 20%. In the sample diets, the cost of fruit and veg increased by 20% compared to 9% rise in cost of discretionary items such as crisps and sweets. Overall, the case study families are estimated to be spending around a third of their disposable income on food. 

“The right to food can be an elusive concept. We developed a way of making it more tangible.” says Pete Ritchie, Director of Nourish Scotland. “We often focus on the fact that 1 in 10 people in Scotland are food insecure. As a country, our immediate priority needs to be to end the need for food banks – but our aspirations are much greater. Scottish Parliament recently passed the Good Food Nation Act. This new way of measuring the right to food allows us to see the extent to which Scotland is living up to the vision of a country where everyone can take pride and pleasure in their food.” 

“Working alongside people who know what it is like to make decisions about shopping, cooking and eating in families every day was key to this work. We can’t set the standard for adequate diets or dignity without involving people in this process” said Dr Marshall. “The right to food needs to be a national conversation”.

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