Why is Scotland The Bread’s Work Needed?

The Scottish diet needs to change. Nudges, recommendations and exhortations to citizens to make “healthier choices” are useless if the underlying nutritional quality of basic foods is inadequate.

For a quick introduction to some of the big problems and some of our solutions, download this short presentation (PDF) given by Andrew Whitley at the Field of Enquiry workshop in November 2016. Or read on for a fuller background and explanation.

Bread for Good Community Benefit Society wants to make things better – from the ground up. We are committed to developing the most nutrient-dense and digestible grains and grain products possible, within the context and constraints of a changing climate.

Trading as ‘Scotland The Bread’, this innovative social business is setting a whole new agenda for cereal research and public health.

Our research work promotes health by improving the nutritional quality of grain and flour and protects the environment by using land sustainably in its methods of growing, processing and distribution.

Our goals include training services to support local economies by building skills, developing short, fairtrade supply chains and creating meaningful employment and volunteering opportunities. We aim to build capacity and help communities to achieve greater control over the management of their natural resources.

With the help of our Members and Supporters, we can bring about the changes needed at each stage of producing our daily bread. This means fair deals for local farmers growing nourishing food for people, fewer damaging food miles, more nutrition in every slice of bread and more jobs per loaf as we skill up community bakers to bring out the best in our local grains.

With collaborators across the UK and beyond, Scotland The Bread is part of a movement to democratise control of, and access to, healthy bread produced from home-grown grains, with the benefits shared fairly across society.

“Our poor diet is not getting better and now spans generations . . . It is not down to individuals, nor retailers nor manufacturers alone to address this problem. Everyone has to shift their mindset and be willing to act differently . . . Condemning future generations to a population that is overweight and obese should not be the legacy of our generation. We must change if we are to be a healthy and successful nation.”

Geoff Ogle, Chief Executive Officer, Food Standards Scotland: The Scottish diet: it needs to change (February 2015)

A Growing Problem

66% of Scots are overweight or obese and by 2030 the cost of obesity is predicted to be £3 billion per year.

More than a million tonnes of wheat was grown in Scotland during 2015. That’s enough to make all the bread we consumed seven times over, but it wasn’t used for that. Instead, we rely on imported grain, and the carbon footprint of this basic food increases as giant mills, bakeries and supermarkets truck food needlessly up and down the country.

The wheat varieties used to make today’s bread almost always have smaller amounts of the nutrients needed for health than in the past. Research suggests that they also have more of the proteins that are toxic to people with gluten sensitivity.

In spite of delivering record yields with intensive and highly ‘efficient’ methods, 60% of UK cereal farmers lost money in 2015. Commodity markets, of which grain is the oldest, are failing. They produce too much of the wrong stuff.

Seemingly low prices mask the high long-term cost of depleted soils, wasted resources and malnourished people. This results in profit for a few, while our health and environment suffer.

A Healthy Solution

Our solution is to grow better grains, bake them well in the neighbourhood and make sure that everyone gets fair shares.

We’ve already rescued Scottish wheat varieties that have above-average nutrients in them. They taste great, too. Working with leading Scottish research institutions and similar agroecological projects in England and Scandinavia, we’re bringing on new varieties.

A key task is to set new standards for the nutritional density and digestibility of Scottish wheat, flour and bread.

At the same time, we are stimulating a market for the new grains by building capacity and encouraging the development of skills in community-scale, artisan baking.

It’s not an impossible challenge. If only about one in twenty of those currently unemployed in Scotland were to train as craft bakers, small bakeries could supply everyone – with bread made from good, home-grown grain.

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