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Let's make change happen

22 June 2012
Let's make change happen

Chef Nick Nairn says the school lunch blog controversy has provided impetus to make radical changes to food education and school meal provision in Scotland

I think something very special is happening with food in Scotland at the moment. Outside London, Scotland is the most exciting place in the country for chefs and great produce. The SNP Government has a vision to make Scotland "The Land of Food and Drink".

But that will only happen when everything is joined up and we stop being the sick man of Europe in terms of health outcomes.

Children are the key to this. If we ensure they are healthy and eating well, the next generation of adults will be fitter instead of fatter.

I called a school food summit to look at the part food plays in Scottish education. Not just what is served at lunchtime, but what is taught and learnt as well.

Just weeks before we were due to meet, the Martha Payne story surfaced. Now, more than six million people have viewed Martha's NeverSeconds blog. It's a remarkable achievement, not least in raising more than £80,000 for Mary's Meals, a charity providing school lunches in Malawi and further afield. It took a nine-year-old with a camera to highlight the issue of sub-standard school lunches here in Scotland. But she is never censorious, only commenting on the food in front of her. Parents like myself now have a responsibility to make sure the impetus of what she has done is not lost.

Martha Payne briefly visited the inaugural meeting of the Menteith Group, named after the Lake of Menteith where my cook school is based. The group has become a collection of passionate campaigners, dedicated to making a difference. We want to find a mechanism to gain a snapshot of meals across Scotland and to improve food education.

One way of doing this is to instigate a Martha in every school, showing us what's happening out there. This could work within an "Active Food" agenda, with every council employing a dedicated team to visit schools and share good practice. This team could teach every child to make a pot of soup, set up after-school clubs and engage with children, doing away with the notion that kids' food means burgers, chips, nuggets and a token slice of cucumber.

Argyll and Bute Council saw this story as a problem. I see it as a great opportunity to make Scotland a better food nation. The time for talking is over. Let's make change happen with the wind of public opinion beneath our sails.

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