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Food in uncertain times

7 May 2020 | Riikka Gonzalez

It has been a difficult few weeks for all of us, but COVID-19 has affected some more than others, deepening existing inequalities in Glasgow and across the country.

For those lucky enough to have a stable income, be in good health and have enough food on the table, this time working from home and home schooling can be either an inconvenient break from our usual lives or a welcome break to allow more quality time spent with family or learning new skills. However, those with underlying health conditions, disabilities, limited income, difficult domestic circumstances and having to self-isolate have been hit hard. 

Many people in the city simply cannot afford to buy food at the best of times and the numbers are growing due to less work/job losses in many industries (and not least in the restaurant and hospitality sector). The current crisis has highlighted problems with the current food system, complex supply chains and the over-reliance on foodbanks in the city.

Many foodbanks have had to close due to either a lack of food or a lack of volunteers many of whom belong to high-risk groups themselves. Other foodbanks are working around the clock to get food to those who need it. Nourish Scotland has been campaigning for ‘Right to Food’ that would entitle everyone in Scotland to eat well without having to visit foodbanks. The current crisis adds even more weight to this argument. 

Glasgow’s community response 

The crisis has also highlighted the importance of community spirit, and new community initiatives and networks have been set up in many parts of Glasgow.

These involve: support groups on Facebook; neighbourhood food delivery schemes for those in isolation/not able to buy food (G20 Youth Festival being one of the many); recipe swaps for people with more time to cook at home; and neighbours swapping seeds to grow their own food. Glasgow City Mission is delivering food to 600 homeless people around the city after it had to close its usual centre and Mutual Aid groups are offering a variety services to people in need including grocery pick-ups. 

The existing community food sector is working hard to co-ordinate and support emergency food provision in the city.  In response to getting food to those who need it, Glasgow Food Policy Partnership (hosted by GCPH) has been working as part of a newly formed Food for Good (FFG) group set up by Glasgow Community Food Network (GCFN) and Slow Food Glasgow. GCFN has secured some funding for the project from Scottish Government to buy and deliver food to community groups in need of food. It has been working with various different sectors in the past few weeks to set up a local supply-chain system and organisations have been coming forward to offer storage space, volunteers and drivers to help with the process.

Learning and looking to the future of food in the city 

Alongside this emergency food provision response, the development of the Glasgow City Food Plan is continuing behind the scenes. A public consultation on this was due to launch in April but has had to be postponed with a view to launch the plan later in the year, when circumstances allow.

The working group will be collecting views from various stakeholders that have been involved in the process, and no doubt the plan will now be shaped by experiences from the COVID-19 crisis. The plan that will go to public consultation later in 2020 will aim to make an impact on our food system as Glasgow adjusts to life after lockdown. 

This new learning about heightened food insecurities and adverse effects of COVID-19 on local food businesses demonstrates the importance of building a more resilient and fairer food system that is fit for Glasgow’s future. After all, supporting the local food economy and everyone working in it should be a long-term goal for our city. 

Find out more about work towards a more sustainable food system in the city and the Glasgow City Food Plan.

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