How can Scotland eat more affordably?

Despite Scotland having a wide range of food produced locally, ranging from vegetables to fish, meat and dairy, imported foodstuffs accounts for a larger percentage of expenditure for Scottish shoppers.

Following the Brexit vote, the plummeting pound rate against the euro has made this habit more expensive. We spoke to Howard Wilkinson from Ayrshire Food Network.

The answer to why a lot of food on the supermarket shelves has to be imported is rather straightforward. “The weather situation we have at the moment explains why we have to import a lot of food at certain times of the year, depending on what you want to eat. If you are happy to eat potatoes and turnips, then you can eat locally. The weather here is lovely on one hand, but it gives us real issues. You should see the state of the fields.”

How could this issue be resolved? “We should grow more what we eat, and we should eat more what we grow. A lot of stuff is either exported, used for cattle or just wasted.” And with that, Wilkinson has touched upon what he believes to be the most pressing issue: food waste. “Of all food, 30% goes wasted and three quarters of that happens at home. It is not in the supermarkets, it is not on the field. 75% of food waste happens because you, I and everyone else who represents a household waste food”, says Wilkinson.

“If you try to get some of that back, that could help us fight the food shortage. We need to find a way to use leftovers, for example through the old habit of making a soup out what is left. There is a lot we can do that is very cost-effective, relatively cheap, and also, presumably, very healthy”, the food expert adds.

“We all know that there are a couple of deprived communities in Scotland. To quote a case from a meeting last week, there is someone who said he just cannot buy a cabbage in any of the shops near him. The only way he can get one is to pay a £3 bus fare to go to a supermarket and buy one, which then makes the cabbage four quid and he has wasted an hour. That shows the vicious circle one is in when you are in a community that does not have access to fresh food.”

Brexit is often quoted as a cause for increased food prices, something Wilkinson admits to be true. “In general, the pound has depreciated ten percent against the euro, so vegetables imported from Spain will now be ten percent more expensive. Depending on how tight someone’s budget is, that can have a huge impact. Butter, that cost 80p one year ago, will now cost £1.60. That is one hell of an increase.”

What would be the way forward? “Well, people could look at their total food expenses. If people spend £30 a week on food and they waste a certain percentage of that, they can look at that. Also, as generations get younger fewer and fewer people know the skills to cooking economically. So rather than blaming it all on Brexit, I would say people could look at the amount of food they are wasting”, Wilkinson concludes.

By Jan Spaans

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