Unions have key role in tackling obesity and promoting food for good

Morag Houston
Morag Houston

#stuc2018 Congress threw its weight behind the British Dietetic Association’s call for unions to be actively involved in tackling obesity in Scotland.

It will press the Scottish government to take steps to reverse Scotland’s terrible record on obesity with the knock-on implications for physical and emotional health, as part of their “A Healthier Scotland” consultation.

Supporting, UNISON’s Morag Houston told delegates that whilst physical activity is extremely important, diet is a major part of work to tackle obesity and improve the health of the nation, alongside teaching healthy eating and food skills in schools.

UNISON strongly supports action in all these areas and the need to make links with wider issues, said Morag, adding that we have done that for years through our Food for Good Charter, which covers sustainability, health, public sector procurement, animal welfare and social justice – locally and globally.

She went on to look at the underlying issues, slamming scandalous levels of child poverty, the thousands of families relying on food banks, cuts to public leisure and sports facilities, environmental health and trading standards cuts.

“All of these are relevant to diet, health and obesity,” said Morag.

“We condemn profiteering by companies selling food products that often have outrageously high levels of sugar, fat and salt.

“We all want decent pay and conditions for food workers – on farms in seasonal work, in PFI hospitals – by changing the way some big companies exploit their hospitality staff, exposed so well by Better than Zero campaigners.”

The Scottish Government will be consulting soon on the forthcoming Good Food Nation Bill and Morag pointed out that UNISON and our colleagues in Unite are part of the Scottish Food Coalition, campaigning for a just transition to a fair, healthy and sustainable food system.

The coalition is pushing for a radical Bill, making all the important links, including on climate change, food miles, procurement and supply chains, and production methods.

“We and Unite work on this to stand up for our members in food. Others in the coalition include Obesity Action Scotland, Nourish, Global Justice Now and many more.”

Morag encouraged all affiliates to look at supporting and ideally joining the coalition.

She added: “This debate is rightly in the Equality and Social Justice section of our agenda.

“Policies that will tackle obesity and improve everyone’s physical and mental health need action that supports a healthy lifestyle, including spending on active travel, making it easier for people to walk and cycle safely.

“Healthy food policy is wide-ranging. It will save lives and improve our quality of life and will save the NHS millions.”

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