Healthy food for all

Healthy food for all

Ensuring everyone in Fife has equal access to affordable, healthy food

Good food is a right not a privilege and everyone should be able to eat healthily every day, no matter who they are, what they do or where they live.

Key to achieving this is:

The ambition for Fife is that nobody experiences food insecurity. That everyone has access to the money they need to eat well, and nobody has to make choices like between heating and eating. That everyone is able to buy fresh produce at affordable prices. That everyone has the knowledge, skills and equipment they need to prepare nutritious and culturally appropriate meals.

This pillar builds on work which has been happening over a number of years in Fife. Research carried out in 2017 estimated that approximately 24,000 adults in Fife were experiencing food insecurity. The Covid pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis have brought the needs of people facing hardship, and the diversity of community and institutional responses, into even sharper focus.

Latest data show that around two thirds of adults in Fife (68%) were overweight (including obese) and 31% of adults were obese in 2016-19. Across Scotland, gradual increases in overweight levels have been seen since 2011 and are currently (2019) at their highest levels since 2003. In the school year 2019/20, just over three quarters (76%) of children in primary 1 (approximately 5 years old) in Fife had a healthy weight and 23.3% were at risk of overweight or obesity.

Poor nutrition is a major risk factor for obesity and for a range of chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. And, as with other health outcomes, inequalities are stark. Obesity rates among adults, for example, are higher in Scotland’s most deprived areas compared to the least deprived. Prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the most deprived areas of Scotland (12%) is three times greater than in the least deprived areas (4%). There is evidence, too, of the strong links between nutrition and mental health.

Health inequalities in Fife have increased as a result of the pandemic and are likely to be exacerbated further by the economic crisis. We need to take action urgently to ensure all Fife’s citizens have the best opportunity for good health. This includes work in rural areas, where pockets of poverty and deprivation can be masked by SIMD data, and limited access to services and transport is a significant challenge.

Tackling Poverty and Preventing Crisis is a key priority in the Plan for Fife 2021-2024 Update, and a significant programme of reform is underway with the aim of ensuring people get the help they need, when they need it. This includes actions around benefit take-up and income maximisation, support with fuel and childcare costs, and providing early, joined-up support through a ‘no wrong door’ approach.

This part of the Food4Fife - Strategy and Action Plan references this programme of work but aims not to duplicate it. Instead, it sets out actions where there is a clear and direct relationship with food.

While our goal is to end food insecurity and the need for emergency food provision, this plan recognises the need for – and the vital role played by – providers of free and low-cost food, in particular those rooted in and led by communities, in mitigating food insecurity. We want to ensure that provision is adequate, appropriate, sustainable and dignified.

Our plan includes work around building knowledge and skills around food in our communities and increasing understanding of the impact of good nutrition on physical and mental health and wellbeing.

It recognises, too, that food is about much more than physical nutrition. Food can be a vehicle for bringing people together, building connections and strengthening community resilience.

The events of the last few years have affected food security, cooking and eating habits, and social connections. But with these challenges come opportunities - to understand, explore and work together, to look differently at our habits and responses, to build on the best of what has happened so far, and to take more coordinated action to ensure healthy food for all.