Becoming a Good Food Nation: an analysis of consultation responses

Full analysis of responses to the consultation on development of a revised national food and drink policy.


5.1 This chapter presents the views of respondents on defining success and measuring progress in relation to becoming a Good Food Nation. The discussion document included two questions which addressed this issue - albeit in different ways - as follows:

Q2: How would we know when we had got there? What would success look like?

Q7: In what areas should indicators be set to check we are on track towards our goals?

5.2 While Question 2 encouraged a descriptive, narrative response, Question 7 focused more specifically on objective measures. There was, nevertheless, a great deal of overlap in the way respondents answered the questions; in particular, many respondents offered suggestions of approaches to assessing progress as well as specific indicators at Question 2. In addition, Question 4 asked respondents to reflect on what being a Good Food Nation would mean for them and their locality:

Q4: How would your life be better? What does being a Good Food Nation mean in your locality?

5.3 Here, respondents discussed very similar issues, using this question to further explore their perception of success.

5.4 Responses across these three questions have thus been analysed together; and, as with the analysis as a whole, relevant material from across the consultation has also been considered. The analysis is presented under four headings: what would success look like; what would being a Good Food Nation mean for you and your locality; approaches to measuring progress; and suggested indicators for measuring success.

What would success look like?

5.5 In considering what success would look like, many of the comments offered further reflection on the vision and the vision statement (as discussed in Chapter 3). However, respondents also made a number of general points about defining success. They emphasised that: defining success was necessary in order to measure progress; success would be multi-faceted; and that success should be seen within a context of an ongoing process of continuous improvement.

5.6 Many respondents picked up on themes in the vision statement such as improved health and wellbeing; thriving national and local food economies; reduced environmental impact; improved food quality; and an enhanced domestic and international reputation for Scotland's food and drink. However, central to the descriptions of success offered by many respondents were:

  • the availability of fresh, local, affordable, seasonal and healthy food for all, produced using sustainable methods, characterised by some as 'food that is good for people, places and the planet'
  • the eradication of food poverty and food deserts, and a reduction in health inequalities
  • a healthy population with high levels of knowledge and awareness about food and good food choices
  • a culture in which good food is valued and enjoyed, and plays a central role in family life and communities
  • an increased role for home-grown and community-grown foods, facilitated by appropriate land use and planning policies
  • environmentally and financially sustainable farming and food production systems, prioritising good quality healthy food options, ethical considerations, and environmental sustainability at all points in the supply chain
  • a public sector (nationally and locally) which leads by example through joined-up policy making, fair procurement, and quality food offerings
  • a thriving food and drink sector - based on high quality, healthy food as standard - playing a key part in the Scottish economy
  • strong local food economies with short supply chains - incorporating production, processing, retail and hospitality - and a corresponding reduction in the importance and power of big business, supermarkets, and advertising
  • an increased emphasis on food security and rebalanced priorities in relation to imports and exports

5.7 By and large, these themes were apparent in the discussion and comments from respondents across all sectors; there was particularly strong consensus around the importance of good quality food as the norm, healthy diets and improved health outcomes, 'sustainability' in a broad sense, and a changed culture in relation to the role of food in society to defining success. However, public sector, partnership bodies and third sector organisations (food groups and social justice groups in particular) were most likely to take a wide perspective and see success as encompassing issues of food poverty, inequality, land use and community resilience. Those involved in food production and retailing, tourism and leisure and general economic development were more likely to take a narrower view in defining success, with a greater - although rarely exclusive - focus on economic success and sector growth.

What would being a Good Food Nation mean for you and your locality

5.8 Complementing the themes discussed above, respondents offered some more personal or localised perspectives on becoming a Good Food Nation. The views of individuals and organisations are presented separately below.

5.9 For individuals, becoming a Good Food Nation meant having a better, healthier lifestyle in a broad sense. It meant growing more of their own food; having access to a diverse range of shops and food outlets selling good quality, affordable, local produce on the high street; being able to buy direct from suppliers; preparing meals from scratch; and eating with family and friends. Good food was often seen as part of a wider healthier lifestyle encompassing more physical exercise, more time spent outdoors and more time spent with friends, family and the community.

5.10 In their wider communities people envisaged: a healthier population enjoying improved diets (as well as reduced alcohol consumption, lower smoking rates and increased levels of physical activity); well-developed local food economies; good quality public sector food including school meals; more community growing; a range of activities based around food; less food poverty; less food waste; an enhanced environment encompassing diverse landscapes and farming methods. Respondents spoke of food and eating being seen as something to 'enjoy', and living in a 'fairer, happier and healthier society'.

5.11 Organisational respondents also picked up on many of the points above. Public sector and cross-cutting third sector organisations saw whole-community benefits in terms of strong local economies (food production, retail, hospitality and tourism), vibrant communities, good quality public sector food, local growing and home and community cooking, enhanced environments and heathy populations.

5.12 Organisations in other sectors tended to emphasise benefits for their own areas of interest with, for example, environmental and nature groups stressing the opportunity to 'conserve and enhance the environment', while those in the commercial sector saw opportunities for business growth, workforce development, connecting with their customers and diversifying their offerings.

5.13 A number of additional themes were apparent in the comments from respondents:

  • Geography and 'place': Respondents were clear that the benefits of a Good Food Nation should be available to all, regardless of where they lived, or the types of community they lived in. Urban / rural distinctions and levels of social deprivation were highlighted.
  • A 'virtuous circle': Respondents picked up on the concept of a virtuous circle that could result from pursuing the Good Food Nation agenda. This was identified in a number of different ways including: (i) increased demand for local produce, leading to business growth and increased employment with more money being retained and spent in local economies; (ii) better quality food for children (at home and in schools) leading to better outcomes (education, health, etc.); and (iii) the positive impact on health services and health expenditure.

Approaches to measuring progress

5.14 Across all sectors there was a consensus that having clear indicators in place from the outset in order to measure progress was vital. Respondents, particularly those representing organisations, commented on the broad approach and underlying principles which should be adopted in measuring progress. Here, there was a high level of consistency in the views put forward, with respondents highlighting the importance of having a robust evaluation framework in place at an early stage which took a holistic or cross-cutting approach to assessing success and measuring progress.

5.15 Respondents identified a range of features which should be incorporated into the approach:

  • An overall framework incorporating a range of theme-based work-strands.
  • Targets and objectives for different work-strands which take account of the potentially complex - and sometimes conflicting relationships between - different measures of success (e.g. desired growth in the food and drink sector and reductions in environmental impacts). The use of a 'balanced scorecard' which could take account of positive and negative indicators and the relationship between them was suggested.
  • Linkages to existing legislative targets and requirements and, in particular, alignment with the Government's National Performance Framework; and use of existing indicators and data sources where possible - the use of existing health and environment measures were particularly noted, as was the continued use of indicators linked to Recipe for Success.
  • Clearly defined objectives, targets and measures for different elements of the Good Food Nation vision as well as for different levels of society (national government, local authorities, individual institutions and organisations, communities and individuals). The establishment of local indicators was seen as important in allowing local bodies (local authorities, community planning partnerships, etc.) to monitor progress and take action in their own area.
  • Clear and realistic timescales for monitoring and evaluation, incorporating short, medium and long-term outcomes, and with an agreed timetable and process for review; the issue of accountability was also raised, with an annual report to Parliament suggested as one way of achieving this.
  • An appropriate mix of process, output and outcome measures, and the inclusion of both quantitative and qualitative elements to any evaluative work.

5.16 Respondents also identified a range of concerns and challenges in measuring success:

  • While some elements of success could be assessed using objective measures (e.g., improvements in population health; economic output in the food and drink sector), it was argued that others (e.g., changes in culture; increased resilience in communities) would be less easy to quantify.
  • It was suggested it might be difficult to prove cause and effect in relation to policy interventions and observed changes.
  • There was some concern that any approach to evaluation which focused on specific targets would not take full account of the complexities of the issues being addressed, including society's relationship with food and the difficulties in bringing about change (as demonstrated by international evidence). Such a target-focused approach was described as a 'blunt instrument' which was, in effect, 'setting the policy up for failure'.
  • There was concern that the introduction of new indicators and reporting requirements represented an increase in bureaucracy.

5.17 While respondents were clear that agreeing indicators was an essential step, [11] they generally saw this as part of a wider need to undertake early strategic planning activities. This initial groundwork might involve: a policy audit; development of logic models; mapping work (of evidence, policies and initiatives, organisations and activities); reviews of existing evidence and indicators; the establishment of a baseline against which to assess progress on different measures; carrying out needs assessments and impact assessments (health and environmental). Respondents were also keen to see appropriate use of international evidence and comparative data. It was felt that such early work was important in order to fully understand the context and starting point for the Good Food Nation journey, and to move forward in an informed way.

5.18 Respondents also commented on roles and responsibilities in relation to monitoring and evaluation. The planned Food Commission (see Chapter 6) was identified by some as having a central role in establishing a framework for monitoring and evaluation. The requirement for funding for research and evaluation activities from central government and other sources was also highlighted. However, several respondents also stressed the need for a range of stakeholders (experts, professionals, relevant organisations and interest groups, as well as communities and individuals) across all sectors to be involved in this process, and a number of organisations indicated their wish to contribute to such a process.

Suggested indicators

5.19 Respondents put forward a range of areas in which indicators should be set, and also offered a large number of suggestions for specific indicators. Although some focused on their own sectoral interests in offering their suggestions, respondents more often advocated a broad cross-policy approach to setting indicators, reinforcing the view that respondents saw this as a cross-cutting issue which required a holistic approach in assessing success.

5.20 Common themes in the indicators put forward (broad areas and individual suggestions) included the following:

  • Health and wellbeing / health inequalities: Levels of diet-related conditions (e.g., obesity (child and whole population), type-2 diabetes, heart disease); oral health; diet-related hospital admissions; consumption of different food types; consumption of alcohol; breastfeeding.
  • Social justice: Access to / availability of affordable healthy food for all; numbers of / use of food cooperatives and other local food projects; numbers of / use of food banks; poverty levels; levels of food waste at every point in the food chain.
  • The environment: Land use; water use; soil health; quality of marine habitats; emission levels; biodiversity; food miles; packaging.
  • Education and training: Food-related courses; apprenticeships; employability.
  • Farming and aquaculture: Adoption of different food production and farming practices (e.g., organic farming; crofting; diversification; non- GM crops); new entrants to farming.
  • Economic growth: Growth of the food and drink sector; imports / exports and the balance between them; research and development expenditure; product range and diversity; growth of tourism and hospitality.
  • Local food sector: Economic growth; start-ups; employment; number / type of food outlets (retail and catering / hospitality); retail and purchase patterns relating to local produce; production, use and consumption of local food.
  • Role of public sector: Quality and uptake of public sector food (hospitals, schools, leisure centres, etc.); procurement practices.
  • Food culture / relationship with food: Levels of knowledge and awareness; attitudes to food; pride; cooking skills; purchasing / cooking / mealtime behaviours; individual / community involvement in food production; scale of home and community-grown food in allotments / gardens; participation in / attendance at food initiatives and events.
  • Food quality: Food quality (as assessed by award schemes, customer - including tourist - feedback); compliance with food safety and standards.

5.21 Some more detailed suggestions were made for new measures to be developed. These included:

  • developing a methodology to measure the 'true accounting cost' for food which would take account of the costs of any environmental impacts and / or waste
  • developing a new retail index which would allow the quality of a retailer - taking account of sustainability issues - to be assessed
  • monitoring the costs of both healthy and unhealthy foods as part of a system for incentivising the production and consumption healthy food



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