Healthy sustainable food

There is increasing awareness that our food system needs to become fairer, healthier and more sustainable if we are to tackle some of today’s social, economic, environmental and public health problems. Food insecurity among vulnerable individuals and families is growing rapidly as a result of increasing levels of economic hardship.

Sustainable, healthy food strategies

We are a member of the Glasgow Food Policy Partnership and host the GFPP coordinator.  The GFPP was formed in 2014 bringing together key public, private and voluntary sector organisations with the objective of supporting action to create a fairer, healthier, more sustainable and resilient food system in Glasgow. Glasgow City Council has committed to working with the GFPP to become a sustainable food city. The Glasgow Food Summit in May 2019 built support and started to shape a City Food Strategy, building on a number of participative events which have previously taken place to discuss how Glasgow might become a sustainable food city and what practical actions could be undertakenSustainable food strategy plate graphic - if you require an accessible version or a transcript please email info@gcph.co.uk

A growing number of cities across the UK and Europe have already developed sustainable food strategies, supported by networks such as the UK Sustainable Food Cities Network, Sustainable Food in Urban Communities and CityFood Network.  In December we invited partners from across the city to hear more about the London Food Strategy.

Sustainable food strategies often address the following themes: 

Community food 

There is a vibrant community food sector in Glasgow with around 50 community based projects and organisations, including 32 allotment sites, involved in a range of food based work including community growing and community food sharing. These include Urban Roots, the North Glasgow Community Food InitiativeGlasgow Allotments ForumConcrete Garden LocavorePlaybustersFare Share Glasgow and many others. 

In 2017 the GFPP supported the development of the Glasgow Community Food Network (GCFN) which is now provides a range of events, support and learning opportunities for community organisations and represents the community food sector on the GFPP. 

Community food growing is a central part of many community food organisations’ activities and we are supporting Glasgow City Councils work to develop Glasgow’s food growing strategy. 

Food poverty and food inequalities

Emergency food aid provides immediate food to those who are in food poverty, often through food banks. An overview of food aid provision published by the Scottish Government in 2013 provided a snapshot of emergency food aid providers in Glasgow and other cities in Scotland concluding that welfare reform, benefit delays, benefit sanctions and falling incomes were the main factors driving increased demand for food aid and that this was a rapidly changing landscape.  Since then, the Poverty Alliance has highlighted increasing use of emergency food aid provision through food banks. An All Party Parliamentary Enquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty in Britain has reported on the subject. In 2016 the independent working group on food poverty, established by Scottish Government, made a number of recommendations in its report. More information on food bank use in Scotland can be found on our Understanding Glasgow website.

In 2018 both GCPH and the GFPP provided a submission to the Glasgow Food Inequality Inquiry undertaken by Glasgow City Council and contributed to subsequent discussions about how to move forward. These discussions have informed the plans for the City Food Summit and will shape the content of the Glasgow Food Strategy which will be developed in 2019/20. 

Surplus food and food waste 

Despite the prevalence of food poverty and food insecurity, around a third of all food is thrown away. According to Zero Waste Scotland, Scottish households throw away 566,000 tonnes of food waste every year.  Wasted food is not only wasted money but it also causes unnecessary carbon emissions which contribute to climate change. Redirecting surplus food and reducing food waste therefore has huge potential social, economic and environmental benefits. But it's not just about waste. How food is produced, processed, packaged and transported are all important in terms of the environmental impact of the food system. 

Food procurement and catering 

Nearly half of all food is eaten outside the home so catering and procurement offers an effective way to help make our food system more healthy and sustainable and to contribute to the local economy.Where people eat regularly, for example in schools, workplace, hospitals, and particularly where the food is provided by the public sector, there is a real opportunity to contribute positively on health, the environment and the local economy, from the money spent on food. The GFPP has established a food procurement working group that is attended by a representatives from a range of public, private and social enterprise organisations who are all interested in moving towards more sustainable and healthy food procurement. 

The local food economy 

To be fairer, healthier, more sustainable and more resilient, a food system needs to do more than focus on food that is good for health and for the environment: it also needs to support and enable a vibrant food economy which provides local employment, increased food security (through less reliance on long food supply chains), productive land use and thriving communities. 

Food knowledge and skills 

In Glasgow there are too few people whose diet meets recommended nutritional guidelines for health and the number of adults and children who are overweight or obese is not falling. There are many reasons for this, including the scale of food poverty and the affordability and availability of healthy food.

Increasing public awareness of and interest in healthy and sustainable food is an important part of moving towards a more positive food culture in the city.  The GFPP has been involved in supporting two national campaigns in recent years: Sugar Smart in 2017/18 and Veg Power in 2018/19. Building the skills and capabilities of Glaswegians so that they are able to take up employment in local food businesses is an important part of building a vibrant local food system. 

Events, presentations and blogs

Check our blog for discussion and comment on food sustainability - including blogs from Fiona CrawfordAde Kearns and Katherine Trebeck.

In May 2019, the GFPP and GCPH hosted the Glasgow Food Summit as part of the collective commitment to become a sustainable food city. The event build on the great work that is already established in Glasgow by bringing together a range of international, national and local experts and perspectives to explore the key aspects of a successful sustainable food system.

In October 2015, we organised an event on behalf of the Glasgow Food Policy Partnership (GFPP), to discuss the current responses to food poverty and food insecurity in Glasgow, and to explore what the recently established GFPP could do to support these responses and help develop a sustainable approach to addressing food poverty.

This event was intended to help shape and inform the GFPP's future work plan and to provide support for a more integrated response to food poverty in Glasgow that supports people in and through food poverty to achieve food security. It was a highly participative event which involved people currently planning or delivering food poverty related work across Glasgow and aimed to help improve understanding about what is going on where and by whom, what the opportunities and challenges are, and how the GFPP can help. Download the event report (PDF).

In 2014, Professor Kevin Morgan from Cardiff University presented a clear call to action in relation to the potential for Glasgow to take action as well as examples of good practice from elsewhere at the ‘Towards a Sustainable Food City’ event.

Related topic: Health behaviours and more on young people and the food environment