Using forum theatre methods, Nourish Scotland led a participatory session at Declaration, exploring what it means to have a right to food, and how this right is inextricably linked to the wider right to health. After all, without sufficient access to nutritious food, good health is impossible to maintain.

Together with a broad coalition of civil society organisations, Nourish is currently campaigning for the Scottish Government to commit to a rights-based approach to food that tackles the inequality and exploitation that characterises our current food system. Such problems are exacerbated by low wages, insecure working conditions and austerity measures that make it difficult for large sections of society to afford a healthy diet. Access to land and other resources, the reliance on fossil fuels and chemicals for food production, and high levels of food importation, further inhibit many people’s ability to access adequate, safe and nutritious food.

To this end, Nourish Scotland – on behalf of the Scottish Food Coalition – will host an open seminar given by Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, on 15 March at the University of Edinburgh. It is hoped that this seminar will inform and inspire Scotland’s opportunity to create groundbreaking legislation in the forthcoming Good Food Nation Bill, legislation that, if adopted, could define in law a Statement of Food Rights and Responsibilties, establish a Principle of Sustainable Development, and create a Food Commission to promote involvement in policy making and encourage collaboration across governmental departments. These actions will contribute to creating a fairer, healthier, and more participatory and sustainable approach to food production and consumption, and a system that takes greater account of every individual’s right to food.

Nourish Scotland are also developing an interactive drama to illustrate and explain this right to food. During their session at Declaration, participants were led towards creating three tableaus to represent the various stages of food production and consumption. A participant at the centre of each tableau represented the consumer. Those around this character demonstrated various processes involved in the food system, from digging the land to offering food up to the consumer.

Curiously, each of the three groups developed tableaus that illustrated some of the negative aspects of contemporary food production. Those producing food at ground level (farmers and labourers) were depicted as working too hard for too little gain. There was a sense too that the eventual consumer was not fully in control of their right to food: while they were seen to be eating greedily and indiscriminatingly, it also seemed as though the food they ate was almost being forced upon them by organisations further up the food chain (supermarkets, for example, and the purveyors of junk food).

It seemed, then, that even assuming the consumer has access to food, they may have little control over what they actually eat, or are being encouraged to eat. On the day, participants in this session were led to question whether this passivity on the part of the consumer impacts negatively on their right to food: access to food is one issue, but access to nutritious, healthy food quite another. Participants were then encouraged to adapt their tableaus to represent a more positive and co-operative system.

Nourish Scotland hope to develop this drama further, and to tour it as yet another means by which to stimulate the discussion and understanding of, and campaign for, a more equal and sustainable approach to food production and consumption, and the creation of a system wherein every individual’s right to food is adequately addressed.

by Mark Jones


Nourish Scotland is an NGO campaigning on food justice issues in Scotland. To find out more about their work, visit their website, or keep up to date by following them on Twitter or Facebook