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Food Affordability, Access and Security: Their Implications for Scotland's Food Policy - A Report by Work Stream 5 of the Scottish Government's Food Forum

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4 AFFORDABILITY

Affordability

The Concept of Affordability Affordability is a wider concept than merely the ability to buy food at a particular point in time as the above diagram indicates. It is as much a sociological as an economic concept. Defra (2008) described affordability as food being available at prices that people can afford to pay and in particular whether low income consumers can afford enough nutritious food.

Universal affordability for food is a major objective of the proposed food policy and influences approaches to both food security and access. It is also perhaps the most intractable of all of current aims having been the subject of many previous initiatives which have been less successful than had been hoped. Many previous approaches, however, have been fundamentally linear in nature and have either aimed specifically at increasing the purchasing power of target groups and or at making food less expensive or both. Schemes aimed at increasing effective income through Government allowances directed at children or low income families or though the taxation system have had significant effects.

However there remain families and individuals who are food poor.

The range of measures taken by Government and directed at reducing the price of food, such as subsidies to farmers through the Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP), and the successes of the supermarkets which have led to reductions in food prices in real terms have had significant impact on the proportion of average income devoted to the purchase of food. Despite this a significant proportion of the population spend a much higher proportion of their income on food. Events in recent months have shown that this proportion increases rapidly with increases in the price of food.

A Variety of Potential Approaches Within society there are a range of approaches to balancing income with expenditure on food some of which impact on long term health and on the ability to contribute to society. Success in making quality food available to all needs new approaches. In the past activity has sometimes been focussed on the development of universal solutions rather than recognising the need for a variety of approaches and for more local actions. In attempting to identify new approaches it is important to recognise that the market within which our supermarkets trade is very competitive which limits their scope for rapid change and the extent to which they can deliver services to all groups within society. Also a range of previous approaches to change diets so as to improve the affordability of food have been less successful than was hoped. Basing new actions upon how the people of Scotland actually use food currently is important. 80

Increasing Affordability by Reducing Waste An alternative and different approach to increasing affordability is the reduction of food waste. The UKWRAP report (2008) 81 noted that we throw away about one-third of the food we buy and nearly two-thirds of this is avoidable waste. Much of this is thrown away completely unused, about one-tenth still in date, and about one-third is thrown away because too much has been cooked or prepared. UK households on average pay for £420 of food every year that could have been eaten but instead is thrown away. Initiatives at all levels which aim to reduce the amount of household food waste should be encouraged from an ethical and environmental perspective, but also to allow money to be spent more effectively within the family food budget.

Correct use of date labels would also reduce waste. A recent survey commissioned by the FSA (Public Attitudes to Food Issues, 20090 82 provided information on knowledge of date labels. Around half of those surveyed were unaware that the best indicator of whether food is safe to eat or not is the 'use by' date. The results highlighted confusion in both the UK as a whole and in Scotland around the meanings of the different date labels. About a quarter of respondents said they would not eat bread or cereals past their 'best before end' dates, despite this being a guide to quality rather than safety. The FSA are currently reviewing labelling regulations for specific products with the aim of helping consumers from the perspectives of both food safety and waste reduction.

Recommendation

29) There is need for a range of initiatives to help households to reduce their levels of waste. Local authorities must play a major part in the development of local approaches which seem likely to involve working with consumers.

4.1 Affordability of a health diet

Income and Food According to the UK wide figures, the proportion of income households spend on food increases as income falls. Figure 8 shows that the bottom decile spend 15 per cent of income on food whilst the richest spend only 7 per cent. Given that the poorest 10 per cent of the population in Scotland has a median income of £7,920 (Figure 9), food price increases would have had a major impact on their purchasing power (this is confirmed by the study conducted by the Scottish Agricultural College 83, see section 2.4).

Figure 8 Share of UK household expenditure spent on food and non-alcoholic beverages 2005/2006

Figure 8 Share of UK household expenditure spent on food and non-alcoholic beverages 2005/2006

Figure 9 Median equivalised net income (before housing costs) of each income decile, Scotland 2005/06

Figure 9 Median equivalised net income (before housing costs) of each income decile, Scotland 2005/06

Additional data from the Expenditure and Food Survey (2006) in Table 11 indicates the average household expenditure in the poorest and richest deciles, showing that the poorest spend twice as much of their income on food and non- alcoholic drinks compared to the richest decile.

Table 11 Average weekly household expenditure in poorest and richest deciles in Scotland (2006 EFS)

Poorest

Share %

Richest

Share%

Food and non alcoholic drinks

£24.50

17.9

£71.90

9.4

Alcoholic drinks tobacco and narcotics

£6.60

4.9

£19.00

2.5

Housing fuel and power

£26.80

19.6

£61.60

8.1

Transport

£13.50

9.9

£151.70

19.9

A study commissioned by the FSA (2007) noted:

  • In the last year (2006) 39% of the low income population were worried their food would run out before they got money to buy more; 36% said they couldn't afford to eat balanced meals 22% reported reducing or skipping meals and 5% said they did not eat for a whole day because they did not have enough money to buy food

A study by the Scottish Council Foundation suggested some low income consumers spend more of their disposable income on food because of where they live. This was attributed to the use of higher cost convenience shops on a regular basis because they did not incur additional transport costs.

Regional Variation in Food Costs This has been supported by a recently commissioned study which was designed to investigate the availability and cost of a range of healthy foods in nine different sample areas across Scotland chosen on the basis of urban-rural location and affluent-deprived conditions. 84

The sites included island locations; Lewis and Orkney, the highlands; Dornoch and Inverness, east coast locations; Ellon, Cupar, Broughty Ferry and Haddington and west Cost locations; Scotstoun Drumchapel and Kilbirne.

This study was based on a Healthy Eating Indicator Shopping Basket ( HEISB) made up of 35 items drawn from the 5 major food groups and included fresh fruit and vegetables, potatoes, baked beans, porridge oats, wholemeal breads, rice, oven chips, meat and fish and some low fat fresh dairy produce 85

The study findings demonstrated:

  • There was a considerable range of price for the HEISB items across the stores and sentinel areas surveyed;
  • The total HEISB median price varied substantially by store type from £37.48 in large stores, £40.30 in medium sized stores, to £47.83 in small stores;
  • Across the 9 sentinel areas the total HEISB median price ranged from £52.75 to £42.34;
  • The 3 sentinels with the highest price for the HEISB were all outside urban areas and had a significant deprived population: rural deprived £52.75, the Island sentinel £49.18 that contains notably deprived areas, and, small town deprived £47.25.

Another study 86 found that those living on low wages and state benefits cannot afford to buy sufficient appropriate food to meet health dietary and nutrient guidelines. Regional food price variations (due to use of convenience shops or higher transport costs) which can be critical for those in low income groups are not accounted for in wages and benefits. These variations to those on low incomes who spend small amounts of money on food can be critical. Dowler refers to qualitative studies which have shown that people economise on food either by buying cheaper items such as processed meals, fewer fruit and vegetables or omitting meals. Given that the study was conducted in 2002, all of these points would have become more of an issue as a consequence of food price increases.

Minimum Income and Food A Minimum Income Standard ( MIS) for Britain has been suggested in a recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation 87. This study examined what people think is needed to afford a socially acceptable standard of living for different groups of society including the amount required to be spent on food. The report sets out a series of minimum income standard budgets which includes a minimum amount per week for food for 4 household types: single adults (£40.34), couples with two children (£97.47), lone parents with one child (£47.05) and couple pensioners (53.25). The report suggests that those living in poverty do not have an adequate income in order to provide a healthy balanced diet. Table 12 compares MIS against the mean expenditure on food of different family types based on the data from the Expenditure and Food Survey.

Table 12 Minimum Income Standard ( MIS) compared with actual mean expenditure per week on food (April 2008)

EFS all

EFSIS*

EFS social housing**

MIS

Mean £

Mean £

Mean £

£

Single working-age adult

39.53

25.30

28.47

40.34

Pensioner couple

65.60

53.58

52.81

53.25

Couple plus two children

111.55

67.58

82.16

97.47

Lone parent plus one child

52.27

41.56

44.80

47.05

* receiving Income Support/income-tested Jobseeker's Allowance/Minimum Income Guarantee/Pension Credit
** living in social housing

There is no reason why the MIS budgets should be identical to actual expenditure. Actual expenditure is constrained by income, whereas the MIS budgets have been derived without an income constraint but aimed to achieve a minimum income standard. The purpose of the comparison with the EFS is to place the consumption patterns derived from the MIS exercise on the distribution of overall consumption 88

Most of the above refer to the situation prior to the recent price increase. Increased food prices hit poorest household first and worse.

Recommendation

30) We suggest the Scottish Government should recognise the disproportionate impact of price rises in foods on the poorest in society and put in places mechanisms to ease the burden.

31) We suggest that the Scottish Government consider whether the Minimum Income Standard could be developed for use in Scotland as an index of the need for additional benefits to help with food purchase.

4.2 The role of Community and Voluntary Initiatives

The Community Sector and Affordability Food production, processing and retailing are major international business sectors but there are questions as to whether they represent the best means of delivery to the food poor. The voluntary sector may have the potential to become an intermediary between major multiples and vulnerable individuals. Scotland has both an incredible legacy as well as an amazing current resource in its community and voluntary sector that can assist in helping with issues relating to both access and affordability. The voluntary sector can deliver a range of foods but not all of these will necessarily be cheaper than those which might have been obtained from alternative sources. They are, however, likely to be more accessible and frequently are of better quality. Breakfast Clubs and the provision of quality fruit in schools are two national initiatives that can trace their origins to this sector and which are example of such an alternative approach. In this report we discuss separately the contribution of this sector to issues of affordability and access. Perhaps one of the major achievements of the sector is to ensure that current policy discussions are not restricted to agencies, boardrooms and lobbyists.

How the Voluntary Sector Works The Voluntary sector because of its nature often, but not universally, has significantly lower overheads than other suppliers. Low labour and often low premises costs; a consequence of the use of multi functional buildings, such as Churches, result in their being able to function in situations which would not be viable for those that have to cover costs at a market rates. Organisations of this type have in addition a role in connecting local producers to vulnerable consumers. In evaluating the role of the voluntary sector it is important to recognise the sectors major contributions being as a result of reach and reputation rather than just price. They provide a clear route to aid Government in facilitating more consumer orientated food chains. Voluntary organisations range from small local groups entirely made up of volunteers to national organisations with large numbers of professional staff. Together they make up a sector involving 45,000 organisations with up to 130,000 paid staff and over 1.2 million volunteers.

Many voluntary led initiatives involve participation from a range of organizations. A current study of food, health and homelessness found around 70% of initiatives being run by the community/voluntary sector, with a further 10% by faith-based organisations. Although around 90% of initiatives had paid staff, over 60% involved volunteers and in one in four initiatives homeless people were actively involved in its delivery.

Issues which require further consideration in support of these community and voluntary initiatives include:

a) Options for collaboration: A scoping study on the options for greater collaboration within East Central Scotland of Food Co-op networks, commissioned by Community Food and Health (Scotland) [ CFH(S)], "revealed five unique network organisations with widely differing approaches and aspirations. Interest from Glasgow has further boosted aspirations for a national initiative 89 and has resulted in CFH(S) commissioning a similar study about the options for greater collaboration throughout the city's community and voluntary sector 90 and an embryonic network of Glasgow community food initiatives.

The networks involved at the time covered 22% of the Scottish population and have since been joined by the north-east. 91

At the time of the study the networks involved, collectively, supplied almost 50 food co-ops and over 200 schools/nurseries as well undertaking a range of other health promotion activities ranging from cooking classes to tree planting. The five networks studied at that point had 30 staff and 167 volunteers operating 15 vehicles from 5 warehouses with a collective turnover exceeding £1.2 million. A common feature of their funding at the time was support from the local authority. Most were invested in by their NHS Boards and all also took advantage of a patchwork of additional funding sources. Even the local authority and NHS Board funding could come from different headings at different times. The basic principles of such co-operatives are detailed in Box 7

Box 7 Community Food Networks in Scotland

There are currently 6 community Food networks in place in Scotland. They are:

Community Food initiatives North East

East Lothian Roots and Fruits

Edinburgh Community Food Initiatives

North Glasgow Community Food Initiatives

Lanarkshire Community Food and Health Partnership

West Lothian Food and Health Development

These existing networks work principally at a local authority level and combine the purchase of food with being community food outlets. For example within the area served by CFINE there are around 50 outlets which are run and staffed by volunteers and are open for 1-2 hours per week. Here CFINE orders the produce requested by outlets and delivers it to them. Future development seems likely to depend on the establishment of a central distribution point to permit the development of collective purchasing power.

CFINE (Box8) is an example of such an approach which is currently active at a local level in Aberdeen.

Box 8 Community Food Initiative North East

Community Food Initiative North East ( CFINE) aim is to improve health and well being and contribute to regeneration in disadvantaged and excluded geographical and interest communities by promoting the consumption of fruit, vegetables, pulses and other healthy products and encouraging and supporting volunteering which brings a range of personal, family and community benefits. CFINE also operates as a Social Enterprise selling fruit, vegetables and other produce on a commercial, but competitive basis. CFINE is now supplying fruit to a large number of companies who participate in Healthy Working Lives award scheme. We have launched a fruit/veg/salad box scheme, a further development of our Social Enterprise, where we deliver orders to workplaces. All profit from commercial trading is invested in the health and community development work we do in disadvantaged and excluded communities. Presently around 40 Community Food Outlets operate in Aberdeen's regeneration areas (Woodside, Middlefield, Tillydrone, Northfield, Seaton, Torry and Cummings Park) and also in the Mastrick area. Outlets also operate in various organisations for example the Alford Centre (for people with mental health problems) and Grampian Society for the Blind, and in a number of sheltered housing complexes. These outlets provide fresh fruit, vegetables, healthy snacks and dried goods at as affordable as possible prices to the local community

b) Relevant training of people: Many homeless organisations were recognised as having taken steps to improve the capacity of their staff to work on food, particularly through courses provided by the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland. The importance of training was also most recently reaffirmed in a study on nutrition commissioned by Glasgow Addiction Services. They concluded "There is a need for training and resources to ensure that staff are providing evidenced based dietary advice, and referring to specialist services when appropriate. It is important to the development of food affordability that there is widespread recognition of the importance of this sector in developing strategies such as those delivered by Single Outcome agreements and HEAT targets.

Links between this sector and the private sector are evolving. The Food Train 92 in Dumfries and Galloway (Box 9) and Fareshare in Aberdeen (Box 10) are good examples of co-operation between voluntary groups and other such as the retail trade whose involvement is crucial to the entire operation. CFHS are currently looking with the Food Train at how best to share their experience and skills with interested parties across the country.

Box 9 The Food Train

"Managing the grocery shopping is often the first problem older people face as they age; many simply eat less in order to cope. Since 1995 The Food Train has been meeting the challenge of food access, delivering fresh groceries to older people across Dumfries and Galloway and seeing the struggles people faced before asking for our help. Now making 15,000 deliveries of vital fresh grocery supplies every year we witness first hand those long term results - our customers eat better, feel better and stay at home for longer. In 2006 the European Nutrition Health Alliance published recommendations to address the nutritional needs of older people, with a strong message that it's too complex for the NHS and Government alone. The third sector in Scotland is certainly ready, willing and able to help with the task of enabling our older people to keep nutritionally well for as long as possible."

Taken from an article from Dumfries and Galloway Food Train in Fare Choice, newsletter of Community Food and Health (Scotland)

Box 10 Supermarkets and community organizations in partnership

CFINE's most recent development is a FareShare project whereby supermarkets' and food producers' surplus foodstuffs are collected and distributed free to people experiencing food poverty, for example, facilities for people who are homeless, women who have experienced domestic abuse and in the regeneration areas. Benefits of FareShare

  • diverting produce that is perfectly good from landfill reaping significant environmental benefit
  • affording the food industry the opportunity to exercise corporate responsibility and work in partnership with the voluntary sector; improved diet for vulnerable/disadvantaged/excluded groups of people
  • saving beneficiary organisations money from their food budgets which can be diverted to other purposes
  • saving individuals and families money
  • Fareshare has distributed 17 tones of produce between April and December 2007. Six tones of dairy produce are thanks to Wiseman Dairies.

Initiatives to Generate Self Respect through Food Skills Other examples of where initiatives have successfully impacted on the ability of people to afford and gain access to quality food include groups specifically targeted on the most vulnerable of the food poor e.g. the homeless. For instance the initiative at Grey Friars Church in Edinburgh run by the Church and the Edinburgh Cyrenians has been successful in restoring self respect to homeless people in addition to improving their nutritional status. Box 11. These work in a variety of ways and their success commonly depends on the skills and enthusiasm of an individual or a small number of individuals.

Box 11 Transformation: An alternative approach which may have found its time.

At the Greyfriars Kirkhouse in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town, a fascinating project is taking shape in which vulnerable people are rediscovering the culture and power of food as a means of transformation. A traditional soup kitchen that has for many years offered food and hospitality to vulnerable and homeless people in the Grassmarket area is being transformed into a place where people are learning how to cook and to appreciate healthy food. They are being encouraged to experience all that goes with eating well and they are doing so in a caring and communicative environment. This project is being supported by Edinburgh Cyrenians who have pioneered a project called Good Food in Tackling Homelessness. Along with Community Food and Health Scotland (formerly the Scottish Community Diet Project) they are developing a nation-wide programme that is rediscovering the culture of food as a tool for positive transformation.

By sharing food around a table and opening up lines of communication and fellowship that did not previously exist, positive change has taken place in people's circumstances. For many people, and not just those who have experienced homelessness, the idea of sitting at a table and taking time to serve one another and listen to other people's stories is both novel and empowering.

Peter is homeless and has all the scars of homelessness upon him. He has low self-esteem, suffers loneliness and there are times when he is tempted by drug abuse and is prone to despair. He signed up for a cooking class. After several weeks of tuition and support, he cooked and served a meal to his peers in the drop-in centre. Many compliments were offered for the delicious meal he had cooked and Peter beamed with satisfaction. It was clear that he was delighted with the outcome and explained later that this was the first occasion on which he had been praised for something he had done for as long as he could remember.

The boost to his self-esteem and the sense of accomplishment that went with the cooking class has led to new opportunities opening up and an end to the cycle of homelessness in which Peter was locked for many years. In addition to being able to move on in his life, Peter now eats better food, is healthier and making healthy eating choices and has learned a new and very satisfying skill.

Something else has happened that is of inestimable value too; he has rediscovered the culture of food. He has discovered the infinite value that comes from taking the time to share a meal at table with friends and the communications of life that flow from that as a part of the cement of community living. The culture of food is more than just nutrition and for many people in today's society the age-old customs of table fellowship and hospitality that are common to almost every culture are being downgraded in the rush for convenience and speed.

Waste Reduction Initiatives Many schemes run by Health Boards and Local Authorities in Scotland are short term in nature. It is important to consider how such initiatives which are delivering results continue to be funded in the longer term. An example of a scheme of this type is that operated by the Edinburgh Cyrenians and which aims to recycle food close to the end of its shelf life in supermarkets to the benefit of the community. (Box 12)

Box 12 Approaches to minimising waste

"Edinburgh Cyrenians have been running the Fareshare project since 1999 and are distributing food on a regular basis to over 30 homelessness organisations and projects throughout the Lothian's. The project states that approximately a third of the food they distribute is in the form of fresh fruit and vegetables. Volunteers and trainees are involved in warehouse roles such as sorting, storing, packing and delivering food supplies. The project encourages social inclusion and skill development as steps to employment for supported volunteers and trainees. The Cooking at Home classes cater for a maximum of four people and teach basic cookery skills and information on food safety, nutrition and budgeting. The Cyrenians receive referrals for service users to attend their classes from homelessness, mental health and other organisations working with individuals whose vulnerabilities might include addiction, repeat offending or mental health issues. Edinburgh Cyrenians also shares their learning around food, health and homelessness with other organisations, for example though their annual food conference and study tours. In the last year, the Good Food in Tackling Homelessness programme delivered 118 cooking classes, involved volunteers and trainees in contributing over 9,000 hours of work, and received 467 tons of food from 27 companies. The redistributed food contributed to an estimated three quarters of a million meals."

Taken from 'Food, Health and Homelessness in Scotland - mapping practice, progress and impact' commissioned by Community Food and Health (Scotland) from Blake Stevenson, Dec 2008

Community Food and Health (Scotland) There are plans for CFH (S) to support work exploring the common fresh produce supply chain problems experienced by both independent neighborhood shops and community retailers. In these days of outcome driven policy and evidence-informed practice the response to the joint CFH(S) / Evaluation Support Scotland evaluation self-help collaborative has been encouraging. The community-based initiatives are in the middle of a three phase programme to improve their confidence and skills in acquiring and applying information on the difference they are making through their work involving parents and children. A member of one of these groups has commented "Demonstrating the impact of our work is a challenge, due to the drop in nature of the group and the lack of structured time for discussion with parents, we have found most conventional evaluation methods quite difficult to use. As a result we have organised separate focus group sessions (with crèche provision) to allow more time for discussion with parents and we continually look at our evaluation systems/methods to enable us to capture and demonstrate the impact of our work. With all our other programmes we do baseline evaluations with the participants, this allows the participants and us to compare how they have changed as a result of participating in the group" 93

This piece of work has particularly raised the dilemma of evaluation being recognised as more important than ever for improving impact and identifying outcomes at a time when dwindling resources and no shortage of competing priorities make it harder to commit adequately to. Most recently NHS Health Scotland have agreed to fund a programme of work around the economic evaluation of community health initiatives. A basic case study of the Lanarkshire Community Food and Health Partnership is to be undertaken in the spring. 94

From a CFHS perspective, alongside commissioned studies, the most useful sources of information on the activities and aspirations, conduct and concerns, of communities come from their interaction with regular CFHS activities such as the annual networking conference 95 (200 in attendance), Fare Choice quarterly newsletter (circulation c2, 000), CFHS website (20,000 visits last quarter) and annual small grants scheme. (59 current recipients from 249 applicants) 96

The Inspiring Scotland Model The Inspiring Scotland model is an example of an approach which could benefit being more widely adopted and which we would therefore wish to recommend for study, as a way ahead. The Inspiring Scotland model (Box 13) operates in conjunction with Community Food and Health Scotland. The purpose of this type of investment programme is to create sustained change through partnership and collaboration, achieving long lasting positive impacts for the disadvantaged peoples and communities in Scotland.

Such an investment programme addresses a number of problems that have historically limited the ability of the VCO community food sector to make it work effectively and sustainably and to scale-up services and their impact. Past limitations have included:

  • Short-term funding to voluntary organisations;
  • Lack of resources available to build the capacity;
  • An external perception of there being too many charities;
  • A tendency for Trusts, Government and philanthropists to focus on 'bits of problems' rather than meeting social issues head-on;
  • The need for more collaboration amongst voluntary organisations;
  • Too much 'bureaucracy of funding' resulting in more money being wasted;

An Inspiring Scotland-type investment programme for VCO's delivering scaleable community food initiatives would deliver:

  • Robust evidence of reduced inequalities in Scotland with regard to good food access and affordability;
  • A cohort of thriving VCO organisations in the community food field delivering more strategic, effective, co-coordinated and sustainable services that make an impact
  • A step-change in the core capacity of VCO's in this field;
  • Significantly increased learning and sharing of that learning - amongst providers as well as policy makers - about what does and doesn't't work in achieving the main social outcome of this programme;
  • Better evidence for the use of Government about the effectiveness of investing in community based activity;
  • A bigger buy-in from the food industry to social investment in VCO's in contributing to a fairer and healthier Scotland

Box 13 The contribution of the Inspiring Scotland Investment Model

The key features of the Inspiring Scotland investment model are:

Multi-sector funding contributing to a single fund: combining Government funding, business sector funding, trusts and foundations and philanthropists with a passion for making a lasting difference

Strategic focus: Starting with a base-line understanding of the current problem and a shared vision of where we want to get to

Long-term investment: 7-10 years of investment in a varied portfolio of front-line VCO's, investing in their organisational capacity to sustain progress beyond the investment as well as the front-line activity

Scale of investment: For example, the Inspiring Scotland NEET programme currently underway has an investment budget of £7-10m p.a. In addition, VCO's receive non financial business support both to deliver ambitious targets and improve their business acumen.

The portfolio model: The cohort of invested VCO's (24 organisations in the NEET programme) represents a variety of approaches to tackling the problem, operating in various types of community across Scotland. They are supported by both financial investment and business support to build on the successful work they are doing, so that it becomes sustainable, more effective and with a bigger impact.

Building knowledge and expertise: Whilst the portfolio supports diversity, there is a strong commitment to honest evaluation to sharing the learning about what has worked and what has not worked with investors and the other investees. The learning will be used to inform policy and practice and to benefit the whole VCO sector in this field.

The principle contribution of an Inspiring Scotland type model to a National Food Policy is not about funding the community and voluntary sector but ensuring that goals are being funded, pursued and delivered by those best placed to do so. A National Food Policy that engages with, and makes a difference to, all of Scotland's communities needs confident and competent community groups and voluntary organisations at its heart rather than ones feeling threatened, marginalised and distracted.

Recommendations

32) Novel and innovative approaches to tackling access by the community and voluntary sector should continue to be encouraged, not only in terms of approach and practice but also with regards to technology, scale and geographical coverage. It is recommended that every assistance is given from appropriate national agencies in ensuring the learning from such work not only continues to be shared but has greater opportunities to be applied.

33) To this end we recommend the use of the Inspiring Scotland model and believe there would be benefit for Inspiring Scotland to work with Community Food and Health Scotland to deliver a long term strategic investment programme with the dual outcomes of building a stronger community food and health sector and enabling grass root initiatives to scale up to make a bigger and more sustainable impact. It would be expected that such a programme would operate in conjunction with Community Food and Health (Scotland) and appropriate national agencies such as Food Standards Agency Scotland and NHS Health Scotland.

4.3 Affordability of Food in Rural Areas

Affordability by Rural Communities A significant proportion of our population are based in our four largest cities. 79% of our total population live on 2% of our land area while the 6% who make up our remote rural population occupy 69% of the land area. (Anon, 2006). 97This has resulted in the cost of a healthy diet being significantly more expensive for those in this situation. A recent study carried out for the FSA(S) showed a higher price for food in rural areas predominantly as a consequence of the presence of fewer large supermarkets and more small general stores with higher average prices. 98 . This study is discussed in more detail in section 5.2.

The sparse population in remote rural areas has meant that they have suffered disproportionately from the loss of services such as shops Post Offices, Public Houses etc. The combination of high costs, limited choice in access to food outlets and low wages has resulted in many of the food poor being found in rural areas. Traditionally a range of measures have been employed to alleviate some of these effects. The designation of the Crofting Counties and the legislation relating to Crofting as a means of small scale local production has had a significant and positive impact. Crofting has shown that with support of this type that a wider range of food can be produced than would be the case for economically driven commodities.

4.4 Specific Initiatives for the Most Vulnerable

The Super Markets and the Food Poor The existence of a group in society who are food poor identifies that current measures aimed at providing affordable access to food have not been totally successful. The types of voluntary initiatives suggested above will help but there is also a need to use more mainstream and commercial routes. The impact of the Supermarkets from the 1970s has resulted in both significant reductions in the cost of food in real terms and in food supply chains which are radically different to those of the earlier era. The supermarkets reduce prices through removing cost from most parts of the system especially in relation to transport and scale of buying. The supermarkets are therefore key players in any attempt to reduce the price of food or to maintain it in periods of market failure. It is therefore important to identify whether there are new options by which supermarkets might provide healthier meals at low prices.

SGF Healthy Living Programme Local shops also have a part to play but here a key issue is whether quality food can be made more available and affordable at convenience stores, especially those located in deprived or in rural areas. The Scottish Grocers Federation ( SGF) Healthyliving Programme (previously known as the Neighbourhood Shops Project) aims to improve the supply and provision of fresh produce and healthier food choices in local convenience stores, particularly in low income areas, and to promote this work to the wider trade; generating increased participation, spreading effective sales models and improving the wholesale supply chain.

In delivering the programme, the Scottish Government is working in partnership with the Scottish Grocers Federation ( SGF); the trade body that represents independent convenience stores in Scotland, with approximately 250 members representing over 2,000 retail outlets.

The Scottish Grocers Federation is described in Box 13.

Box 13

SGF (Scottish Grocers' Federation) is the trade association for the Scottish convenience store sector. It is the authoritative voice for the trade to both policy makers and the media. The SGF brings together a whole range of retailers throughout Scotland, from most of the Scottish Co-ops, through Somerfield, Spar and local independents, who are our largest category of members. These retailers sell a wide selection of products and services throughout local town centre, rural and community stores. According to recent statistics there are just over 5,600 convenience stores throughout Scotland, with annual sales in excess of £3.2 billion

Healthy Eating Active Living (2008) 99cites the SGF Healthyliving Programme as an example of best practice and commits the SG to support the food sector to drive forward and support positive changes within industry and ensure that health objectives are integrated. The SGF Healthyliving Programme was set up as a pilot in April 2004 to evaluate the potential of the convenience store sector to successfully and profitably promote the Healthyliving brand and healthier food choices, with a view to helping inform further action in this sector. The pilot involved 10 stores and tested a variety of potential promotional initiatives which successfully showed that the convenience store sector had the potential to promote healthier food choices profitably. A Project Coordinator was appointed to develop the programme throughout convenience stores in Scotland, particularly in low income areas. Following the success of the pilot, phase 2 was launched in April 2005 and ran until May 2006 and included 197 stores. This phase focussed on point-of-sale material, training costs, investment in equipment and store refurbishment costs to ensure appropriate focus on fruit and vegetables.

Key Results from Phases 1 & 2 An evaluation conducted by Harris International Marketing ( HIM) found 100 that:

  • 70% of shoppers said initiatives in their store had encouraged them to buy more fresh produce;
  • 45% of shoppers are buying more fresh produce now compared to 12 months ago.
  • Around 41% of shoppers said they would use their local convenience store as their first choice for fresh products.

Additionally, retailers noted that certain practices led to a marked increase in sales:

  • Doubling of space for fruit & veg and relocation to the front of the store - 750% increase
  • Appointing a "fresh champion" in-store - 176% increase
  • Sited a new chilled unit for fresh produce- 55% increase 101

Current Work Phase 3 of the programme has the aim of expanding the initiative as widely as possible. It aims to enlist new retailers onto the programme, with an emphasis on retailers situated in low-income communities. Around 550 stores are already signed up, with major operators in the convenience store sector including Robert Wiseman Dairies, David Sands Ltd, Scotmid, Botterills, CJ Lang, Spar, Somerfield and a number of key independent retailers. This figure is expected to rise as more retailers are convinced of the profitability of healthy options. The Programme launches a new phase of branding in spring 2009 linking it more closely to the Healthier Scotland super brand and Take Life On health improvement social marketing campaign.

Other key objectives include:

  • To set up training programmes within the existing retailers, and to extend this to new retailers joining the initiative
  • To further develop links to suppliers who have suitable products within their range to improve the quality and supply of fruit and vegetables to the convenience sector.

The Programme is also working with Community Food and Health (Scotland) to align with ongoing development and regeneration work at local level. There has been considerable interest in the programme from the Department of Health who have looked at the SGF Healthyliving Programme in Scotland to inform a pilot project to promote healthy options within convenience stores in England under the Change4Life banner.

Other Options There is also a need to consider more novel measures. Given the importance of linking climate change initiatives to food policy it would help to know whether making carbon credit linked food vouchers available to the food poor would be a way of both enhancing their diet as well as helping the achievement of Climate Change targets. In addition it would help to know whether money-off voucher schemes could be developed in partnership with the retail sector to encourage low-income and vulnerable families to access a healthier diet. (The BuyWell study 102).

Recommendation

34) The Scottish Government should consider investigating the options available in relation to developing the social support schemes in Scotland, in order to improve the range of benefits available to lower income households to enable them to more easily purchase a healthy diet.

4.5 The Role of the Supermarkets and Manufacturers

The Contribution of the Supermarkets The supermarkets currently dominate the food supply market and so are key players in any attempt to reduce the price of food or to maintain it in periods of market failure. They also have a pivotal role in any approach to the promotion healthy rather than less healthy options.

Positive engagement with this sector is critical to any Scottish strategy while the UK basis of the current supermarkets networks suggests the need for discussions at a UK level.

A Food Access study carried out by White et al. in Newcastle 2004 103 showed that 77% of a representative sample of shoppers in Newcastle did their main food shopping at a multiple supermarket, 14% in a discount supermarket, 3% in a department store and 2% in their local shops, internet shopping at this time was used by 0.5%, market stalls were used by less than 0.5%.

In terms of the social and demographic characteristics of those using the main types of food store, there were strong socio-economic trends, with more affluent and better educated groups more likely to use multiple supermarkets and less affluent groups more likely to use discount supermarkets and other types of stores. Single parents and single adult households were more likely to use discount supermarkets and less likely to use multiple supermarkets, as were those on benefits, older age groups and those retired, and non-white ethnic groups. Younger people were more likely to use multiples and there was no difference in the main food shop used between male and female main food shoppers.

Improving access to affordable healthy food will require substantial changes in many of the ways in which the supermarket sector works but it is important to acknowledge that the industry has played an active part in reformulating many products to make them healthier, introduced healthier ranges, provided significant information and support to consumers and taken many socially responsible steps to help their customers make better, more sustainable choices.

Although some supermarkets have moved/are moving away from But One, Get One Free ( BOGOF'S), they are seen by the retail sector as a useful as part of a suite of measures to keep prices competitive.

Supermarkets and Affordability It is important that the retail sector should investigate ways to help individuals and families on a low budget to choose food which will maximise the value of their total spend in order to achieve a healthy diet. Supermarkets could do this by encouraging the purchase of low-cost foods which can contribute to a healthy diet, and also by providing advice about how to prepare these foods safely, healthily and with minimal waste. There is evidence of increased purchasing of ready meals in a recent report 104. In the last 6 months major supermarkets have also seen an increase in the purchase of raw ingredients suggesting that more customers are preparing meals from scratch 105.

For many, it is probably more expensive to buy ready meals than prepare meals from the raw ingredients. Supermarkets should do more to encourage, educate and support home preparation and cooking.

The UK food market is extremely demanding, where consumers expect affordable food and take an interest in its production and impact on the environment. It is key, therefore, that all retailers plan for the changes in global demand and production that affect our supply chain. Retailers recognise that a highly efficient just in time supply chain can also be a vulnerable one and have invested heavily to ensure its robustness. This has been tested by a number of incidents in recent years, including GM contamination of the primary source of rice and several animal disease outbreaks. Retailers have significant experience of what initiatives will work, which will not and what information their customers will take in and put to use in their stores.

Manufacturing industry also has a key role in relation to the affordability of food. It has a responsibility to help consumers understand more about the food they eat and a role to play in helping to promote a healthy lifestyle. This could involve providing more informative labelling (e.g. nutrition labelling, Guideline Daily Amounts panel on pack) and continuing to reformulate products

Recommendations

35) Local authorities should put in place mechanisms to monitor the availability of affordable food. This might include assessments of whether appropriate transport to supermarkets and other retail outlets would allow the food poor to access a better quality diet at lower cost. It would also include the evaluation of the local availability of Electronic based food delivery systems, the use of community information centres to allow universal access to broadband and related services and the role of food hubs.

36) Small stores are an important source of foods for lower income groups. There is need for initiatives to be undertaken to improve the buying power of good quality fresh fruit and vegetables by the C sector stores.