Eat or Heat – Grim Choices for Families this Winter

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the current food and fuel shortages in the UK and the devastating impact on low-income families with the removal of the £20 per week from Universal Credit.

What a fine mess we find ourselves in due to Covid and post Brexit. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimated this year that the Brexit damage will inflict a heavy financial damage on UK citizens with every person facing a cost of around £1,200. The economy has taken a hit along with a massive drop in exports, high fuel prices and food shortages. The UK governments own department that forecasts how well the economy will do in the short and long-term has predicted the worst is yet to come! Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, with all 32 local authorities choosing to reject Brexit. A recent report by the online news organisation Byline Times said Covid was a ‘’convenient scapegoat’’ and that the empty shelves were the result of Brexit and not the ‘’pingdemic’’. Brexit remains the main factor to blame for food shortages in shops and supermarkets as attempts to make the so-called” pingdemic” a scapegoat is increasingly undermined.

Warnings about empty shelves in shops and supermarkets began when Boris Johnson imposed his woeful Brexit trade deal which kicked in on January 1. Mounting red tape and other problems led to a growing shortage of lorry drivers able and prepared to take food from Europe to the UK. The dairy giant Arla, which has a dairy in Lockerbie and which supplies milk to all major UK supermarkets, said that the lorry driver shortage is hitting milk supplies. Arla was suffering more from the lack of drivers than from Covid alerts, said the managing director. “Self-isolation doesn’t seem to be impacting us as much, because we’re a very mechanised, automated business,” he added. “The food is there in the factories; it’s just about getting it to the shops. So that’s our key problem.” One farmer told Byline Times: ‘[The right-wing media] are trying to scapegoat the blame on to the test and trace ping system because they want to deflect the blame from Brexit.’’

In my previous columns since Brexit, I did warn of the impending crisis, like many sane voices in the country about the knock-on effect it will have on the most vulnerable in our society. Rising prices of food, fuel and other commonly used household goods and services are causing increased levels of stress and anxiety especially to families that have a stark choice to make; do we feed our children or heat our homes. The real problem at the heart of food shortage is Brexit. That’s it. No other country is having these issues and no amount of spin from the government will change this simple fact they had plenty of time to put in place measures that would have not allowed this chaos to play out. Removing the £20 per week from Universal Credit is like kicking someone really hard while they are down and out! While I am writing this column, the UK government has called in the army to deliver fuel and essential food supplies to petrol stations and supermarkets in England for the coming weeks. As a social enterprise, we have in the past picked up the pieces of flawed legislation introduced to penalise the poor for sins committed by the rich, here is hoping the government has a change of heart.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 8th October 2021

Brexit & Covid-19 combo causing havoc with our food and drinks supplies

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s the Brexit-Covid-19 combo that is causing havoc with our food and drinks supplies.

I have written in my previous columns what the impact of Brexit would be on the supply chains especially the food and drinks sector and it seems the chickens have come home to roost! The UK is going through a massive shortfall of key workers with vacancies running at a record high level. In early September the Recruitment and Employment Confederation reported that there were over 1.11 million vacancies at the end of August 2021 and this number is set to rise in the coming months. The sectors suffering the most with a shortfall of workers are HGV drivers (100,000+), Nurses (79,123), Carers (49,751), Chefs (29,996), IT Professionals (68,929), Retail Assistants (26,183), Primary and nursery education teaching professionals (30,574), Cleaners & domestics (24,148), Metal working production and maintenance fitters (19,748) and Carpenters and joiners (6,364). Other jobs highlighted with high vacancy rates include veterinary nurses, ambulance drivers and postal workers. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for the Shortage Occupation List, which allows companies to recruit skilled workers from the EU and the rest of the world, to be extended to all specialist welders, as well as butchers and bricklayers. The Road Haulage Association has consistently argued that HGV drivers should be included in the scheme as vacancies have risen from a pre-COVID level of 60,000 to beyond 100,000 – threatening wider distribution disruption as the key Christmas season approaches.

To top this up last week we learnt that the UK is bracing itself for a severe shortage of CO2 gas impacting supplies of beer, fizzy drink and meat! The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was warned last week of the shortages caused by the closure of two major fertiliser plants. While the general public may not be aware, the drinks industry relies on CO2 to carbonate beverages, while the meat industry uses the gas extensively throughout processing; in slaughterhouses, and for packaging and refrigeration. The British Poultry Council (BPC) warned the industry was heading into a “downward spiral towards supply chains seriously struggling”. The council urged the government to prioritise CO2 supplies for food production to limit the disruption to supermarket supplies and hospitality businesses. Supermarkets shelves and restaurants are expected to be affected from this week onwards given that the gas is instrumental to the production of carbonated drinks and meat processing. All the major fast-food chains have suffered due to supply issues and this will continue in the foreseeable future unless the government gets its act together.

So, who is to blame for this mess and what can we do as ordinary citizens to stop this from getting worse? Winter is upon us and already consumers have seen a huge rise in prices of essential consumer goods. Most food and other household expenses have shot up by over 40 percent in some cases. The rich and the middle class are as always, cushioned by any negative impact on the economy but the majority of us have to rely on a hand to mouth existence not knowing when things will get better. Here is hoping that we don’t face a real winter of financial hardship and discontent as this time the powers that be will not escape the wrath of its people.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 24th September 2021.

Australian Trade Deal will Decimate British Farmers and Lower Food Quality in the UK

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the impact on British farming of the newly signed trade deal with Australia.

 So, a trade deal has been signed with our furthermost neighbour on the other side of the world! Great news for Australia but bad news for British farmers as it seems food standards have been lowered in order to get this trade deal. We have been warned repeatedly by the National Farmers Union that there was a danger to safety standards being compromised in order to get a trade deal no matter what adverse impact it will have on our high standards of farming and consumer food safety laws. What do readers think about this trade deal and will it undermine decades of hard work put in by various legal bodies and farming institutions to raise overall welfare standards of farms, farmers and the consumers? Going by the recent headlines since the deal was announced, it seems we as a nation have compromised our food standards; but by how much? This will be determined in the coming months and years as the small print of the trade deal will be put in practice and by then of course its too late! Our concern as a grass-root organisation is that this new trade deal will be a template for all future deals including with our biggest trading partners, the US of A. If you think Australian welfare standards are low and unacceptable wait until we have a trade deal with the US and other countries around the world that have an appalling record when it comes to animal welfare and food standards.

To give you an example, hormone-fed beef is banned in the UK but legal in Australia along with barren battery cages, sow stalls and hot branding! The UK has signed up to the Paris agreement on climate change, but this trade deal shatters the environmental target and goals that this country has set to reduce carbon emissions. Profit seems to be the sole motive and as usual the big corporations and landowners are likely to benefit from the trade deal while small, local farmers will be out-priced within the UK local market to cheap imported food products coming from far away lands. Trade deals are by nature compromising to the country that stands to benefit the least in terms of real impact on ordinary people. Mark Lynch from Oghma Partners said that nations with larger herds, such as Australia, will still benefit from the economies of scale. “Economics dictates that UK farmers are at a scale disadvantage and already marginal producers, such as upland sheep farmers, will logically inevitably suffer. This begs the question that, after the fishery fiasco will farmers be next in the firing line for losing their livelihood and means to support themselves and their families?

Many citizens of this country are making an informed choice of sourcing their foods locally in the hope of reducing their carbon footprint wherever they can. This trade deal, pandemic, job losses and dire financial circumstances of many individuals and families will leave no choice for consumers as most will be forced to buy cheap food imports produced in many cases with very low food safety standards.

We are going backwards and as a consequence future generations will be subjected to low nutritious food in their diets, thus having a knock-on effect on their health.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 2nd July 2021.

Brexiteers! Your Country Needs You!

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week farmers in the UK are on the brink of losing all their summer fruit crops due to a massive decrease in numbers of fruit pickers as a direct result of Brexit!

So here we go again! It seems we have finally gone back to the good old days when the sun never set under the flag of the British Empire. Britain is now more divided and isolated than ever in its history due to the lies and misinformation sold to English voters by the Tories, UKIP and the loony right-wing fringes of British society. After Scottish fishing having suffered huge losses since Brexit officially began this year, the next sector in the firing line is farming. For roughly six months of the year, farmers rely mostly on seasonal labourers coming to Britain mainly from other Eastern European countries to do the work that the local population don’t want. Some of the reasons being; having to work hard in the fields from 4am during summer months to low pay and zero-hour contracts.

Now that the UK has left the European Union it’s no wonder that many Europeans don’t feel welcomed anymore to come to this great nation! The irony was that the British people were sold misinformation about Europe and English nationalism was unleashed during the referendum in 2016 on voters been given the choice to Leave or Remain with no fact checking and downright lies told on national television and the print media day after day after day. Now that Brexit is done and the mask has come off, these very same politicians are still standing with no legal consequences for their action.

Numbers of seasonal workers from the EU have fallen drastically in the last two years and recruitment figures of one company in Kent show that they have fallen by almost 90% in the last two years alone. The impact of Brexit on the flow of workers has and is only getting worse with every passing month. At this rate many farming businesses will collapse and fold permanently with the knock-on effect being price rises of basic foods. With high unemployment on the cards once the furlough scheme is abolished, this country will face an existential crisis for the first time in its history, all of its own making. Director Stephen Taylor of Winterwood Farms Ltd, said that nearly 95% of all fruit and produce picked and packaged in the UK is done by eastern Europeans and from the end of June people who haven’t got pre-settled status, at least, can’t work! That’s a massive hole in recruitment which will not be filled by the locals, who many in England voted to leave, to get back control! Stephen Taylor referenced the UK’s unemployment rate, which stood at 4.8% of over-16s for the first three months of this year, but said it varies by region, and issues arose where British workers did not live-in reach of farms. The Tory government expanded its seasonal Agricultural Workers visa scheme from 10,000 visas issued in 2020 to 30,000 in 2021, at the same time looking to encourage farms to move to automation for a pioneering and efficient future! So, no local jobs created for local people, a promise to English voters to vote leave. This visa allows any EU migrants to work up to six months on a farm in the UK. Mr. Taylor also criticised the politization of the debate on seasonal workers coming to the UK

All Brexiteers should pull up their socks and go to the farms as your country needs you. Hard work it seems does not pay, a reality that the people of this country are waking up to lately.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st May 2021.

Scotland Should Ban Harmful Pesticides and Fertilisers Now!

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the use of Roundup, the glyphosate-based cancer-causing pesticide in the Scottish Borders.

It was refreshing to read the article on glyphosate by your reporter Hilary Scott in last week’s edition of the paper. When our social enterprise started building Scotland’s first organic training garden on school grounds, little did we know about the complexities of working with the local council. It was quite an eye opener and we realised how much control and no flexibility the councils hold over their local authority areas. But we found innovative ways to circumnavigate the bureaucratic rules that would have stifled our project and would have exposed primary school pupils to harmful chemicals and pesticides. Notice boards of various sizes were put up all across the project in order that council staff that came on their regular rounds avoided spraying anywhere close to the garden. I must acknowledge that frontline staff of the council were more receptive to the idea of keeping our organic garden safe for locals and pupils alike. The legacy of this project continues and more pupils and the community every year are benefitting from this amazing resource on their door step in Innerleithen.

So why did we insist on a no chemical rule to grow food. The reasons are many but to point out a few, one of the myths is that everything needs to be sprayed to enhance and make sure things grow, especially in Scotland where the weather is unpredictable. Scots have been growing multiple crops over hundreds of years with no oil-based fertilisers and pesticides and were actually quite healthy and strong. This also applies across the world. Secondly and this is the most important reason, corporations like Monsanto have been lobbying hard since the 50’s as part of the green revolution to use their products extensively for growing as it had major benefits and would also help farmers eradicate weeds and other pests in their fields. All very well you may say, but the widespread use of these pesticides over decades have not only resulted in the soil losing its nutrients due to over use of these very harmful chemicals but also did whole-scale damage to the ecosystem that crops relied on namely other wildlife that tackled pests in a natural way and helped the overall process of growing crops.

Using Permaculture principles in our organic garden, we worked with nature and not against it as most farming done today. The council argues that Roundup (glyphosate) is perfectly legal! So was DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and Asbestos for crying out loud.

The manufacturer of Roundup, Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer in 2018, is currently facing over 9,000 lawsuits across the US alone from plaintiffs who believe that their exposure to Roundup caused their cancer. Here is hoping the council and our elected councillors act quickly to move towards environmentally sustainable practices. The survival of our planet, environment and life is at stake and we need to act quickly to protect not only our country side but also the health and wellbeing of our children.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st May 2021.

Prevention is better than cure

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on why we should change our eating habits post Covid and concentrate our efforts more on prevention in the future.

The current pandemic has highlighted one very important factor whereby the majority of deaths caused where due to individuals having an underlying health problem like diabetes and other health related chronic conditions. Up to this point humanity was heading to a very unhealthy lifestyle where ready meals, takeaways and processed foods and drinks became the norm. Growing up in India during the 70’s and 80’s we were fortunate not to be exposed to these harmful processed fast foods laced with chemicals and taste enhancers which have proven to be addictive and many carcinogenic; the legal definition being something that causes cancer. For any food or drinks to be called carcinogenic there must be evidence linking consumption of these types of foods to an increase of specific cancers in our body. Alcohol, red and processed meats, burned and over barbecued foods are just a few examples.

So, what do we need to do going forward post pandemic to mitigate the effects of fast foods in our diets? The first step would be to make these chemically induced foods very expensive via taxation. I am aware it’s not a popular option but essential for the overall positive impact on our children’s health in the long term. Last year the UK government announced its new obesity strategy linking it to eliminating coronavirus, by banning TV and online advertising and promotion of foods and drinks that contain high salt, sugar and fat. To blame people who are obese is not a sensible solution as it will cause more harm than good as we will develop a blaming culture. Covid-19 is an infectious disease and the risk of getting it is by transmission from another individual. Obesity on the other hand is more a deep-rooted problem of our society and is determined by people’s surroundings, awareness or lack of it and economic status. If you are poor its much harder to make these choices as you are literally living on a hand to mouth existence. One thing this virus has shed light on is the disproportionate way minorities, low-income earners and disadvantaged communities have borne the brunt of this pandemic. Analysis by the Food Foundation found that over a quarter of UK households would need to spend more than a quarter of their disposable income after housing costs to meet the government’s healthy eating guide.

What is the solution? Researchers at Tufts University in America made the case that subsidised fruits and vegetables could prevent millions of cases of chronic diseases. They recommended that instead of Doctors prescribing expensive medications, they should instead prescribe more fruits and vegetables! The study argues that this change could saves £billions in healthcare costs. The power of food as medicine which we at You Can Cook have advocated since the beginning is now slowly finding acceptance in the scientific world and about time it did. Prescribed medicines in most instances have minor or major side effects which then have to be treated with more drugs and this keeps the patients on a never-ending conveyor belt that ultimately only benefits Big Pharma!

Many years ago, while researching about how much NHS Scotland spends on preventative initiatives and treatments, I came across the actual figures which was shocking. Less than 1% of the budget was spent as prevention. It’s time for a major overhaul in Scotland of how we wish to proceed as a society; healthy and strong or weak and dependent on pills for the rest of our lives. You choose.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 9th April 2021.

Reduce meat and dairy consumption to reverse the impact of climate change

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on how we can live on a less meat diet that does not have a devastating impact on our planet.

When we talk about climate change, it mostly refers to reducing our air or food miles and moving from oil/coal to an environmentally friendly renewable option. One big factor is most often missed out in discussions and legislations at government or international levels; meat and dairy farming. Western meat and dairy diet are a big contributory factor to carbon emissions since the 80’s and has gotten worse with many poor and developing nations like China increasing meat in their diets from occasionally to every day! It’s not rocket science to understand the damage this will do to reduce our carbon footprint globally even if we make massive changes to other aspects of our lifestyle. Current data shows that meat and dairy farming is responsible for around 14% of greenhouse gasses.

Research shows that vegetarian and vegan diets are much more sustainable and climate friendly than meat consumption. So how do we go about achieving a reduction in meat and dairy in our diets? Simple solution is to reduce and ultimately stop importing these foods from other countries were its cheaper to produce them but as a consequence have a detrimental impact on the local ecosystems and people. For example, cattle raised on UK lands get access to greener pastures than those reared in South America where deforestation is creating a huge problem to local indigenous populations, their livelihoods and contributes to soil erosion due to pesticides and fertilisers used to generate single type of crops for Western consumption.

Unfortunately, subsequent studies have also shown that even if all Western countries shift to home produced meat solely fed on grass, then that too is not the solution as the already high consumption by countries and individuals will not make a dent in the carbon emissions. The only way forward is producing meat and dairy sustainably, locally and using organic farming methods.

Supermarkets sell milk and some meat products at cost or even at a loss in order to keep their customers coming through the doors. This practice alone not only distorts prices and the perception that meat is affordable but also creates huge amounts of food wastes that goes to landfill and money down the drain from the point of view of the customer. In the UK 4.5 million tons of edible food is thrown away by households and this also contributes to our carbon footprint.

A few years ago, food policy experts concluded that Western countries like the UK should adopt a radical method of eating, whereby they ate meat once a week and reduce milk to a maximum of one glass a day. If you convert to being a vegan and vegetarian than the impact improves dramatically. Growing up in India my family could only afford to buy meat once a week or on special occasions like birthdays. We had a very varied diet with fish, vegetables and pulses and food was cooked from fresh produce and ingredients bought on the day from the market. Only a radical change will stop the planet from tipping over. Tinkering at the edges and shifting the blame on countries like China where the local population want the lifestyle of the West will not help solve the issue. It’s time to act globally but we as citizens of Scotland need to act locally too as any small changes we make will collectively have an impact on polices that will help reduce our carbon footprint.

 Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 5th March 2021.

Sustainable farming methods is the best way forward after the pandemic.

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on our knowledge of where and how our food is produced and the far-reaching consequences of not changing our current commercial food production to a more local and sustainable form of farming.

 In the last few decades humanities thirst for everything quick and fast has accelerated to the point of no return. Its ironic that humans were stopped right in their tracks by a virus that cannot be seen with the naked eye. If you closely look around you in nature, and we are very lucky over here in Peeblesshire and the Borders in general; plants and animal life is thriving as mother earth is repairing and healing itself. It’s such a wonderful sight to behold and some would call it a miracle! The planet has shown us who is boss and also sends us a message that the earth will not only survive but thrive in the absence of humans as a species. Since the dawn of the industrial age, humankind has plundered and exploited the natural resources made available to us as a gift by mother earth, while she watched in silence hoping that men would change their ways.

Commercial farming on an industrial scale has decimated the soil and people’s livelihood wherever it was implemented. Food and water are the two essential things we need as a species in order to survive on this beautiful planet, only after clean air. As a species we have polluted not only the air but also the water and our food systems across the globe. Since the beginning of the so called ‘Green Revolution’ in the 50’s, soil, water and the immediate environment have been sprayed with Agri-chemicals to boost food production, often to the detriment of local ecosystems. Forests have been cut down to grow what came to be known as cash crops. But all is not lost yet! Individuals and grass-root organisations have come together as a collective to tackle this problem head on last year. Since farming is labour intensive, the West outsourced its food production to developing and third world countries, while at the same time providing huge subsidies to its farmers not to grow, thus artificially controlling prices of essential food commodities.

Corporations in turn have been funding our politicians directly and through other means in order to make sure their profits are not impacted. Corporate greed is held in high standards at the expense of citizens right to water, food and environment. Protest movements have risen throughout this pandemic across continents to oppose our current political and financial model and are looking to replace these with sustainable practices in farming, environment and social justice for the working-class man and women in all countries. Scotland should remove all farm subsidies and encourage small scale farming initiatives across the country with training and expertise provided to high school pupils so that they can make a better choice going forward as a career option. Farmers markets should be encouraged in every town, village and city and not just well-off areas where this is mostly a hobby for the middle classes. We want the Scottish government to provide financial aid to small local groups and businesses that produce food in order that this country reduces its reliance on imported food from Africa and the far East.

Now is the time for governments across the world to change gear and this may probably be our last hope to look out for the collective good of humankind rather than just a few, transcending countries, boundaries and continents.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 12th February 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depraved Tories steal from poor children

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the scandalous state of affairs of companies linked to Tories providing free school meals to pupils in England.

Brexit has finally happened and citizens of the UK are slowly waking up to the reality of the consequences of being no longer part of the European Union. Last week we learnt that Tory donors resorted to stealing children’s lunch money in England. Chartwells were given the contract to supply emergency food packages to families who would usually rely on free school meals as children were forced to learn from home. The company at the centre of this storm is part of Compass Group Plc whose chairman Paul Walsh stepped down in December last year and was once a member of David Cameron’s business advisory group and is a Conservative Party donor. Once again it raises serious questions over cronyism within the Tory party which has unfortunately blighted their pandemic response. Will the Tories stoop so low that they are now stealing food from hungry children in England to fill their offshore bank accounts? Labour MP Ian Lavery from Wansbeck twitted “Not only are children being denied a proper meal but the taxpayer is being ripped off. This pandemic has exposed the crisis of crony capitalism where the only criteria for govt contracts is how much you give to the Tories. This shameful govt literally ‘takes the biscuit’. This must be the lowest of low that the Tories are stopping to in order to make money so soon after Brexit. The amount allocated and paid for by the government per child was £30 and the kids received what looked like food that cost less than a fiver!

£10.5bn worth of contracts have been outsourced to companies owned by Conservative Party donors and the relatives of MPs, often with little experience in the field of providing these services. Procurement processes have led to loss of tax payer’s money in millions to Serco Test and Trace system (£410m), £108m for undelivered sets of PPE for NHS workers and £7000 a day to Boston Consulting Group to help the government deliver its test and trace system, to name just a few. These are just the tip of the iceberg with more revelations coming to light on a regular basis. It is very upsetting that so called good folk of this country are still not reacting to this level of atrocity committed against children who for no fault of theirs are paying the price of a greedy Conservative government. The myth that people will spend money on alcohol or cigarettes instead of buying food for their children is perpetrated by these evil clowns who want to literally suck the blood of poor working-class families in this country. The irony is that these very people voted for the Conservatives in the last general election, so have no one else to blame for this sorry state of affairs.

The right-wing Tories have to set aside their unfounded fears of the poor misspending taxpayers’ money and concentrate on money that is being funnelled through contracts to their own friends and families. Locally, the Tory led administration have shown to be equally inept and incompetent where council budgets are concerned and are splashing money at corporations and vanity projects like the iPads (£15m) instead of looking after the health and well-being of their constituents. The last ten years have already shown beyond doubt the physical, mental, emotional and financial damage Tory-Lib-Dem policies have caused in the United Kingdom.

God save the people!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 22nd January 2021.

Teach them young

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on growing food as a subject alongside home economics in schools.

One thing the Covid-19 pandemic has definitely taught us is that humanity has to get its act together in order to survive on this planet. No more climate change deniers being elected into power, no more control, funding and lobbying by oil companies of our politicians and governments both local and national. The future may look bleak at the moment but this pandemic will pass like many before it, but we need to radically change our economic policies. More emphasis should be placed on a work-life balance while food and health should be at the top of any governments priority list for its citizens, no matter what the political ideology. 

Having setup You Can Cook and You Can Grow in 2007, we have seen massive changes in the communities we delivered our projects. Not many are aware that we were the first social enterprise/community organisation to setup an Organic Training Garden on school grounds in Scotland in 2015. This project is still going strong with community support and has not folded since the original funding ceased. We worked tirelessly with the school and with support from school staff and volunteers helped develop an educational programme that was linking with the school curriculum, an achievement that has far exceeded our expectations. Pupils from Nursery up to Primary 7 were given hands-on training on how to grow and also cook from scratch with raw ingredients. We acquired four allotments plots on a 5-year lease from Traquair House Charitable Trust for local residents to grow their own food. We provided all the growing materials, seeds, training and support throughout the process, while making sure allottees could cope with growing food for the first time. The project has managed to light the imagination of local residents who felt motivated and inspired to grow their own food locally. This was the first of many steps the organisation took in fulfilling its long term sustainability plan for the Scottish Borders. 

We were the first social enterprise in Scotland to launch a book for growers, no matter what your knowledge or expertise is about wanting to grow your own food. The time is ripe for joined up thinking in our schools with help from local councils to make pupils aware of the consequences of climate change and impart skills and training in cooking and growing so that future generations will be able to be self-sufficient and not have to completely rely on food imports which currently make up over 50%. 

Let’s face it, we all need good, nutritious food and it does not matter whether we are rich or poor, SNP, Tory, Labour, Greens, or Lib-Dems. This is one policy we can hopefully all agree on. Make Food Poverty History.

Wishing all readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New year 2021! Stay safe and let’s grow, shop and eat local!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 11th December 2020.