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Scottish Government must deliver on its commitment to create a ‘Good Food Nation’ by guaranteeing every school meal, where possible, is made entirely from fresh, tasty Scottish produce, says National Farming Union Scotland (NFUS).
Responding to the publication of a Scottish Government report on nutritional requirements for food and drink in schools, NFUS is calling on the Scottish Government to insist local authorities prioritise local produce when preparing their school menus.
Given that the timetable for change set by Scottish Government is autumn 2020, the process of sourcing and securing local produce for school meals to be served in 15 months must start now.
The union points out the Scottish Government runs the risk of scoring a massive own goal if changes to school meal nutritional requirements do not support its Good Food Nation ambition and results in more meal imported produce appearing on menus, coming at a higher environmental cost, additional food miles and poorer production standards.
As well as urging the Scottish Government to drive a higher inclusion of Scottish produce on menus, there’s also the opportunity to link that to a better understanding for pupils of where the food has come from and how it is produced. That is an ambition NFU Scotland and Scottish Government share.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: ‘The overall benefit to Scotland of a healthy, well-fed nation with a thriving food and drink industry cannot be understated. Scotland is home to producers of the best beef, lamb, soft fruit and vegetables, milk, eggs, pigs, poultry, crops and potatoes. The raw material of Scottish-produced food and drink is sustainable, healthy and nutritious.
‘Headline-grabbing dietary recommendations around consumption levels of processed red meat in the diet are not new but Scottish Government’s intention to write these into school meal requirements by next autumn must be used as an opportunity.
‘Red meat, whether processed or unprocessed, is a valued source of high-quality, natural protein, vitamins and minerals and if it is truly committed to being a Good Food Nation, the Scottish Government must insist every gram of red meat on the school menu – in whatever form – should be Scotch.
‘In the same vein, as valuable protein and nutrient sources, Scottish milk, eggs and chicken should be the first choice.
‘What would be wholly unacceptable would be any further move towards imported protein sources such as imported chicken and pork or soya-based meat alternatives.
‘Similarly, significantly increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables served in schools presents a huge opportunity for the Scottish Government to ensure that, where possible, the high-quality fruit and veg grown here in Scotland is prioritised.
‘Given our reputation for quality potatoes, whether chipped, boiled or mashed, the tatties that appear on school dinner plates deserve to be Scottish.
‘Getting Scottish food onto Scottish school menus need not present a challenge. We spearheaded a project in Tayside schools last year that will put more Scotch lamb on school menus in that area. That shows what can be achieved and can be applied to all food groups.
‘That approach, driven by the Scottish Government, should be rolled out across all local authority areas as clear commitments that using fresh, tasty local produce can work. Setting up those chains must start now.’