Scotland is suffering: obesity levels are amongst the highest in the world, wages remain low, unemployment has still not recovered to pre-crash levels and food bank usage has sky rocketed in the past year. The effects of climate change are being felt across sectors, while demand for allotment sites in order to self-grow fresh produce holds high in both urban and rural areas.

In an attempt to help tackle these issues, a Sustainable Food Atlas of Scotland will use food as a framework to illustrate the links between energy consumption, economic viability, population, health, environmental degradation and climate change. The planned book and interactive database is a collaborative effort between Nourish Scotland, a hub of food-focused thinking in Edinburgh and Lateral North, a research and design collective based in Glasgow.

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The atlas will showcase Scotland’s emerging role as a leader in food policy and as a global interest in clean energy and sustainable development, using the newest possible statistics to map the reality of our progress and infrastructure. The final collection will contain over 50 maps and charts covering food and resources across the country, such as an estimated 38% increase in farmers’ market direct sales and a 50% surge in exports of Scottish branded food and drinks since 2007, as well as a critical look at the pressing issues that both Scotland and the global community are facing.

Professor Mark Sutton is a scientist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Edinburgh and also co-chair of the UN Economic Commission for Europe’s taskforce on reactive nitrogen, ‘I can see it will really be a benefit to bring these different sources of information together,’ he said. ‘If you’re talking about sustainable food, there’s so many different angles with it. One kind of food commodity might be bad for greenhouse gases, another for air pollution or water pollution. With this you’ll see them together.’

Available data will encompass everything from food consumption and production, recent widely discussed food bank usage, weather patterns, diet-related health statistics and shifts in biodiversity. Predictions of future scenarios, including the impacts of climate change and government policies, aim to bring attention to the importance of immediate action at a national policy level in food, environment and health.

The atlas is an ideal way to open dialogue and initiate action in building a healthier, sustainable and thriving Scotland. Poor diets plague the country due to the history of our food culture. The export market has become dependent on just a few products, leaving Scotland vulnerable to disruptions.

The new atlas has also been welcomed by a number of green campaigners. Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, has said, ‘Using an atlas format to talk about local food and all the related issues from climate change to poverty is a great idea. Most people want to do the right thing but often don’t know where to find the right advice.’

Consolidating this wide range of information will allow those working in sectors effected by food and agriculture to realise that they are not facing issues alone. This collaborative effort will be key to reaching viable solutions that benefit all citizens in Scotland and foster a more self-sufficient and resilient economy.

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 09.38.06The project aims to include contributions from a growing number of organisations and groups in its creation, becoming a reserve of knowledge, which will enable shared action across many disciplines, becoming a resource for researchers, educators, policymakers and others with interest in the future in Scotland.

Solutions that benefit the well being of all people, preserve natural resources in Scotland and foster a more self-sufficient and resilient economy, must be prioritised by government and supporting organisations.

For more information about the project or to discuss how you or your organisation can become involved, visit the Food Atlas website or contact Food Atlas Coordinator, Megan MacLeod.

Feature image by Tony Foster

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