We are Scotland’s only network led by young people which exists to promote, engage and empower young people across Scotland to make more sustainable choices and create a food system we all deserve.
Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) is a global movement that was founded with the principle aim to raise awareness amongst young citizens and consumers to encourage and mobilise them in making responsible choices. It follows the Slow Food ethos of good, clean and fair food for everyone, encouraging young people to take part in the public debate about current issues, such as how to feed the world, what to do about food waste, the intangible cultural value of food and how to produce food as sustainable as possible.
SFYN Scotland was founded in 2015 as an organic network of young people across Scotland who wanted to learn, debate, campaign, farm, cook, eat and dance their way to a more sustainable food future whilst exchanging ideas with fellow young change-makers across the world. In these early stages, a small group of us provided a diverse range of affordable and accessible pop-up events for well over 200 young people, principally in the central belt.
Activity included co-ordinating events for World Disco Soup Day, running our #whatthefood campaign, hosting an EdFest debate on ‘Building a nation of sustainable food leaders’, organising food documentary screenings and providing participation opportunities in a global youth think tank on ‘sustainable food solutions’, ‘Designing sustainable kitchens’ and ‘connecting rural communities’. These activities enabled young people to engage with complex questions surrounding Scotland’s food system in a fun, social and positive way. We also supported a number of local projects and built strong connections with the international Slow Food community.
Until early 2018 we have operated as an un-constituted collective of volunteers but our ambitions and demand have outgrown our voluntary capacity and prevented by a lack of legal structure – so we are currently in the process of converting to a Social Enterprise (CIC)! This will also help us to engage and support a wider diversity of young people, particularly those without access to food education or employment opportunities in the food industry.
Why does Scotland need us?
Scotland has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in Europe, yet approx 380k tonnes of food and drink is thrown away each year and 2/3rds of Scots are overweight. 22% of greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland are from agriculture, severe soil degradation is taking place in a number of areas and we increasingly export instead of consuming our best resources. Our food industry is also filled with numerous low paid, zero hours jobs, inequality is high in many areas and there is little access to land – meaning little opportunity or incentive for young people to work in the industry.
(statistics from Plenty Report, 2015)
Despite a growing trend in young people taking action for a more sustainable world, we recognise that many don’t have the opportunity to choose the food they eat, the information they have access to or the career they pursue.
The mainstream messaging produced or events focused on what a ‘sustainable food’ system look like for Scotland are also rarely led by and do not positively engage young people – leading to considerable confusion about what the sustainable choice is, too often leading to polarisation amongst groups and on an individual level to severe anxiety, and increasingly disordered eating.
Whilst the government, local authorities and a number of community food organisations are working hard to provide social solutions and education for young people at school age, we believe there is little to no support for those who have already or are soon to leave school – the population whose knowledge and views are crucial to our future as they will become the next generation of parents and decision makers.
The Difference we want to make
We want to equip a diverse and multi-disciplinary network of young people aged 18-35 from different social, professional and cultural backgrounds with the knowledge and confidence in choosing what is on their plate, in the fields and in the media.
The various activities, digital content and volunteer opportunities we provide encourage positivity, innovation and foster confidence in young people across Scotland to make more sustainable food choices. Our network also provides fertile ground for young people already working in the industry, enhancing their voice and helping them to develop new and innovate ideas, businesses and collaborations that enable them to lead the way in developing a sustainable food future for Scotland.
At the core of our organisation is the drive to co-create, collaborate and promote these young people, whilst providing them with opportunities to take action at a national and international level.
We collaborate with a range of partner organisations and experts focused on specific areas of social insecurity and sustainability to ensure the activities, digital content and voluntary opportunities we provide are engaging, accurate, accessible and inclusive for all young people.
By becoming a social enterprise that is lead and co-designed by a diverse and multi-disciplinary group of young people we can empower a generation to recognise that they are the future of food and give them the platform to lead Scotland towards a more sustainable food future.
If we sound like something you’d like to be part of – Why not get involved or volunteer?