By sharing ideas and food skills people can build stronger communities

THE Evening Times has been promoting its Active 2014 campaign, highlighting efforts to get Glaswegians into healthier habits in this Commonwealth Games year.

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From the work of government agencies and big employers to the hospital porter who has been shedding the pounds through cycling and healthy eating, there are things we can all do to make ourselves leaner, fitter and happier.

It's a worthy goal, especially when you consider the cost of ill-health to our economy and our health service.

Obesity alone costs around half a billion pounds a year and looks set to soar as high as three billion pounds if we don't get the nation into healthier ways.

And obesity's just one aspect of health - our hearts, our bones, our mental health and (last but not least!) our sex lives can all suffer from the poor state of our fitness.

The Scottish Parliament is finishing its debate on the 2014 budget this week, and the Greens have been proposing a Healthy Challenge Fund to help communities in their efforts to address health and fitness.

IT IS modelled on the successful Climate Challenge Fund, which we proposed in 2007 and which has been running for more than five years now.

As well as things such as energy efficiency and public transport, the CCF funded things such as promotion of walking and cycling, and community food projects.

There's an overlap between the social, health and environmental benefits of these things, but it's not always straightforward to justify them purely in terms of carbon emissions.

So we think there's a need to focus on them in their own right.

Getting people together to address issues such as food poverty and healthy eating by growing food locally is a great form of exercise.

By cooking together and sharing ideas and food skills, people can build stronger communities too.

And it saves money, cutting our reliance on the supermarkets and their efforts to flog us all processed and packaged food (with or without horsemeat!).

There's so much scope to do more of this in Glasgow, and a community-focused fund from Government could pay huge dividends.

I'll be hoping that Finance Secretary John Swinney sees the benefit of taking action.


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