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14th April 2019


This week Bosco Santimano, founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on food poverty.

Food poverty has reached crisis point in this country since the Conservatives won the elections in 2010. They abolished previous Labour policies that helped bring millions of children and families out of poverty. The Tories used the financial crash of 2008 to put the blame and target people claiming unemployment benefits and in-work benefits. Their ideology has decimated and created an environment that has pitted this group against the financially struggling working and middle classes of this country, while the real perpetrators of these economic crimes have been basking in wealth and glory. The gap between rich and poor has widened since the Tories took power.

Food poverty is a significant threat to health and well-being and is completely preventable in the fifth largest economy of the world! Due to the direct consequences of this policy, foodbanks have become the next big institution in this country, the first being the monarchy and the second – religion. While the Queen’s benefits and entitlements have increased according to inflation along with our mafia of elected members of Parliament, these very people have voted down any increases to benefits on the pretext that we have to live within our means!

What will it take for citizens of this great country to stand-up for the weak and vulnerable and spark a revolution to remove these archaic institutions that have no place in a modern democracy?

The Trussell Trust’s most recent figures on Scottish foodbank use, taken from April to September 2018, found a 15 per cent year-on-year increase which it linked directly to the rollout of Universal Credit. These figures are only the tip of the iceberg and they do not reflect the use of other types of emergency food aid provision or the scale of people going hungry without accessing any help at all. Scottish government figures last year which measured food insecurity for the first time revealed one in five of single parents in Scotland had gone hungry. We have been working with disadvantaged families in the Borders and Lothians for over five years and have seen first-hand the impact of benefit cuts and sanctions on low income groups. It was disheartening to see young children coming to school hungry and fainting due to lack of food in their homes. It’s upsetting to see this happening in this country in this day and age. Most people were quick to judge and condemn so-called benefit scroungers without understanding the implications on the innocent children who were the real victims in this Tory government class-motivated destruction.

I have to use strong words as the reality is what it is, and no amount of spin from our elected masters will change the devastation that has been caused, all because of an ideology!

The Brexit fiasco has made things worse for the common folk who have no means or access to financial support. Ultimately, foodbanks will be the Tories’ toxic legacy to Great Britain in the 21st Century just as Thatcher’s poll tax.

*Originally written & published in the Peeblesshire News.

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4th March 2019


This week Bosco Santimano, founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on vending machines.

Why are most fitness and leisure centres equipped with vending machines that give access to unhealthy foods and drinks to its users? What message are we sending out to the wider public? That it’s ok to keep fit while at the same time consume junk food and sugary drinks when you are finished with your exercise regime?

LIVE Borders runs the leisure centres in the Scottish Borders. The swimming pool and the Gytes leisure centre currently have three types of vending machines on site: Hot drinks i.e. tea/coffees; soft drinks/energy drinks and crisp/chocolate bars. On one hand the Scottish government is trying to bring in policies and legislation to combat the rise of obesity in Scotland while on the other hand it’s business as usual.

These machines are also found in our schools and hospitals! Over £550,000 was raised through sale of snacks and fizzy drinks alone in Scottish hospitals. There has been calls from health experts to ban these items and switch to healthier options.

The NHS is meant to cure you and make you feel better not turn you into a fast food junkie!

In 2005 the British Medical Association (BMA) called for urgent action to tackle the UK’s child obesity epidemic. Doctors urged the UK government to ban school vending machines that sell unhealthy fizzy drinks and snacks and introduce mandatory nutrition guidelines for all school meals. The cost of obesity-related illness and poor diet to the NHS is about £2bn a year and rising! These are figures from 2005! They have almost tripled now with no government regulation in place to stop manufactures from adding excess sugar and salt in all our foods and drinks and promoting and marketing their products on impressionable minds. Children and young people that use these facilities are constantly exposed to these vending machines that are playing a major part in developing a life-long addiction to sugar and salt.

Discipline and organising your meals go a long way in helping stop the cravings and the urges for fast foods. These items contain a lot of chemicals (E numbers) to give you a boost after a workout or swim but in the long term have a detrimental effect on your mind and body. When you consume fast foods and fizzy drinks on a regular basis, your brain does not function effectively as studies have proved time and again. Some studies showed that people do badly on cognitive tests compared to those eating healthy foods. You gain more weight and are prone to developing diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure eg. eating fast food for five days disrupts your muscles from oxidising glucose.

On a final note, there are healthy vending machines available that can be installed after the current vending machine contracts with private companies expire.

One easy solution that is free and we all need it is sleep. Whatever you do, don’t under-estimate the power of a good night’s sleep to stay healthy and keep your waistline slim.

*Originally written & published in the Peeblesshire News.

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5th February 2019


This week Bosco Santimano, founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the threat of food shortages.

If you have been following the Brexit saga, you may have noticed a lot of fear mongering and scare stories about the supply and availability of fresh food after the March 29 deadline, following a no deal option.

How true are these statements? Will EU flights be cancelled? Will cross border computer systems stop working? Is the government secretly stockpiling essentials including medicines? Remember the millennium bug that was supposed to happen in the year 2000 and IT consultants and companies made a fortune by creating this scare in public and ignorant government ministers fell for it while pumping millions of taxpayers’ money to increase the profits of these companies! Nobody to date has been held accountable for what was basically a world-wide scam.

So! Coming back to food and Brexit. What’s the real situation on the ground and how likely it is for this scenario to happen? Let’s look at some basic figures and facts before we jump to any conclusions. More than half of this island’s food and feed for cattle comes from abroad, a fact that is disastrous for any country to depend on imports for feeding its population. In the first half of 2018 the UK imported £23bn worth of food! This data was collected from HM Revenue & Customs and broken down into countries and categories. £5bn of meat on British shelves comes from overseas including chicken, with Netherlands 43 per cent, Poland 17 per cent, and Ireland exporting 10 per cent to the UK. Britain also imported £425m worth of beef from Ireland and £171m worth of pork from Denmark.

During this period the UK imported over £5.4bn worth of fruits and vegetables with Spain being the largest exporter to the UK. This report has exposed the lies perpetuated by the Leave campaign that this tiny island can go back to its glory days of Queen and Empire! I do not wish to bore readers anymore with statistics but would rather focus on the human costs of this elitist misadventure.

At You Can Cook we focused our energies and expertise on empowering communities across Scotland to be self-reliant in producing its own food locally by providing support to set up cooking and growing projects that would impart skills and knowledge on what to grow and cook in Scotland. One way of cutting our dependency on exotic vegetables and fruits is by only buying local and eating seasonal fresh produce. This is not only cheaper and easily available but also healthy in the long run. The economics of scale is heavily pitted against small scale farming as governments look to always favour big corporations to supply the population with its food requirements.

Will there be an acute food shortage? There is one simple answer: No! There is too much at stake for the establishment to allow chaos to follow our exit from the EU without a deal. So relax and enjoy some fresh Scottish produce as we learn to grow and eat what’s available on this island.

*Originally written & published in the Peeblesshire News.

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12th December 2018


This week Bosco Santimano, founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on organic farming.

Most of us are already conditioned into believing the so called ‘magic’ of science. That science has or will find solutions to all our manmade problems. The issue with this approach has always been that, experiments carried out in controlled environments like laboratories and then replicated in nature have always been unexpected and sometimes catastrophic.

These scientific methods involved limited assessments and tests and mainly conducted for profit by ‘Big Pharma’!

Having covered Making Scotland GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) Free in my previous column; I will focus on our next vision, which is to make Scotland a 100 per cent organic country.

The green revolution introduced in the 1960s, sprayed fertilisers and pesticides on farm land all over the planet to increase crop yields. This in turn led to many forests being cut down to grow what was then called ‘cash crops’ and small-scale farming was replaced by industrial farming on a massive scale supported by government subsidies.

Big corporations acquired land across the globe, food was added as a commodity to be traded for profits on the stock market and this in turn has led to inequalities in health and access to food especially in developing and third world countries.

The unforeseen impact of chemicals for growing over the last few decades, has led to the fall of nutrients in the soil, as this was being depleted by over use and irregular crop rotation. Profits were maximised and are even today. For example, soya beans are now grown in many countries as cattle feed for the West! This then leaves no arable land for the local population to grow food leading to widespread hunger and impoverished conditions.

We need to go back to our roots and grow food at local levels on a small scale and bring back farming as a lucrative job for people to invest their time and energies. This will be a sustainable long-term approach and remove the need for farming subsidies that are the biggest scandal of our times as most go to big landowners in this country. Can you imagine governments are currently paying farmers in some cases not to grow?

Organic farming will not only bring back the health of the soil but also stop corporations making money through selling chemicals and hybrid seeds. This will have a positive impact on the lives of all people as ‘organic produce’ will no longer be the domain of the rich and middle class who can afford to feed themselves and their children with good food. This choice should be available to all.

So! What’s happening globally where organic farming is concerned? Denmark is on its way to becoming the world’s first 100 per cent organic country, followed by Bhutan and Estonia. India has the North-eastern state of Sikkim designated as the first fully organic state anywhere in the world and was awarded the UN ‘Oscar for the Best Policy’ that is inclusive and comprehensive of all socioeconomic aspects.

Can Scotland be 100 per cent organic? Yes! It can.

*Originally written & published in the Peeblesshire News.

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2nd November 2018


This week Bosco Santimano, founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on renewable energy.

Having covered making Scotland GMO free and a 100 per cent organic country as part of our vision, I can now focus on our third and final vision for the country – to make Scotland produce 100 per cent of its energy requirements through renewables.

Is this possible you may ask? Yes! It is, as long as so-called experts and professionals working in the oil companies are not sitting on government-funded boards and institutions that are in charge of energy security of the nation.

We have to move away from fossil fuels if we are to survive into the next century. Climate change is real and if we don’t reverse our current habits and lifestyles then there is no chance of survival for our species on this planet.

We currently know of at least seven forms of renewable sources of energy: solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, ocean thermal, bio energy and hydrogen.

Scotland is well placed geographically on these islands to be in a position to produce renewables through all the above clean energy sources including solar!

Scotland got more than two-thirds (68.1 per cent) of its electricity from green sources in 2017, an increase of 26 per cent from the previous year! Its not rocket science.

We can achieve our target so long as we pour money into research and development, training, manufacturing and other industries connected to the renewable sector. We could be a nation that leads by example and provide our expertise to other countries to help support them make the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

The Scottish government is aiming to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption by 2020. Scotland has already met the 2015, 50 per cent interim target and is also looking to provide the equivalent of 11 per cent of Scotland’s heat demand by 2020 through renewable sources.

Many of us are not aware that governments across the globe still provide massive subsidies to major oil companies and these are normally in the form of tax rebates/exemptions and tax credits for job creation.

The whole of the UK could have benefited when oil was first discovered in the North Sea but alas, vested interests both in government and corporations squandered the wealth of the nation on the few.

If the UK had followed Norway’s lead, we would probably be sitting on a similar $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund generated through oil alone. But, unfortunately, we cannot do anything about it now but hopefully hold those responsible at Westminster and stop them repeating the same mistake twice.

Local councils across this country should be given incentives to promote and encourage green energy usage, with households getting rebates on their council tax bills as one option.

Low-income households should be supported with this scheme otherwise they will be penalised just as they are now through our unfair current council tax bands and prepayment meters, while the well-off will reap the tax benefits once again!

*Originally written & published in the Peeblesshire News.