Until 20 March 2024, Members of the Scottish Parliament have the opportunity to support Rhoda Grant MSP’s Right to Food Bill. The bill will incorporate the human right to food into Scots law and provide for a body to be responsible for oversight and reporting. Access to food is already a Sustainable Development Goal as set out by the United Nations but this Bill is an important chance for Scotland to make a legal commitment to eradicate food poverty and make sure nobody goes hungry.

For the Bill to go  forward it needs Cross-Party Support from MSPs by 20 March.  You can email you MSPs asking them to support this Bill by using the link at the bottom of this article.

Here in Inverclyde, where I serve as a Scottish Labour and Co-op councillor, it might sometimes appear that we’re obsessed with soup. You’d certainly be hard pressed to show up at a community event in our area without a cup of broth being thrust into your hands and almost every community hall will sign-post you towards a ‘bowl and a blether’ – that sweet spot where food justice meets warm space.  But it’s not because we love slurping up the pulses or even about us finding some cock-a-leekie comfort in our cooler climate. This focus on widening access to healthy, nutritious meals is part of our commitment to tackling food poverty and food insecurity. For too many children and adults across Scotland, hunger is impacting on their physical and mental health as well as limiting their ability to participate in society.

Ensuring that Inverclyde’s children will never go hungry or miss out on education due to poverty was one of the motivations behind my councillor colleague Jim Clocherty’s announcement last year that Inverclyde would be one of the first local authorities in Scotland and the UK to make school meals free of charge for every primary-aged child.

Our belief that everyone has the right to food also meant that, when I called for enhanced warm space provision during the Cost of Living Crisis, Council Leader Stephen McCabe acted decisively with local staff to combine anti-poverty measures with increased access to food. This led to our council funding over 100 community projects to organise a network of spaces where residents have accessed food and warmth over the past two winters, building on the innovation of grassroots volunteers and third sector partners.

While we appreciate that tackling food poverty in isolation will only mitigate the impact of wider poverty challenges, research from leading social justice charities has also guided us to empower people experiencing poverty with the provision of directly downloadable cash and vouchers to so that individuals can make their own food choices. These sound and dignified food justice responses are complemented by a range of additional initiatives which include support for two thriving community pantries where locals can purchase high-quality food at significantly discounted prices as well as developments coming from our Food Growing Strategy and community food networks.

The work and projects we continue to support in Inverclyde also include a commitment to back up the efforts of local foodbanks who provide for those in most urgent need, a blend which shows that the right to food cannot be taken for granted. That’s why I will be writing, along with my Co-op colleagues and members of our Inverclyde Labour Group, to our MSPs to ask that they support Rhoda Grant’s Right to Food Bill by 20 March and would urge all MSPs to do the same.