I was delighted to note that the ‘Food for the Future’ initiative, based at Dumfries House and part of the King’s Foundation, has been shortlisted for a prestigious award.

Lantra Scotland’s Awards for Land-based and Aquaculture Skills (ALBAS) celebrate the achievements of learners and highlighting the importance of employers investing in skills.

An independent judging panel was comprised of influential figures with expertise across the sector, and being short-listed is quite an achievement.

'Food for the Future' is part of The King’s Foundation's wider food waste initiative known as 'Making Food Go Further'.

In partnership with Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty, it aims to demonstrate how the food production system works. Secondary pupils participating gain skills and knowledge needed to play an important part in reducing food waste.

It's estimated that currently 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year around the globe — around a third of all food produced — and tackling food waste can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 10 per cent. 

Congratulations to ‘Food for the Future’ on being short listed and all the best for the final awards, which will take place later this year.

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Meanwhile, you may be aware of the Time To Talk Day which happens early in February each year. 

The theme for 2024 is ‘what I really mean’, highlighting that the words we say don’t always reflect what’s beneath the surface.

We can all be guilty of saying ‘I’m fine’ or ‘not too bad’ when asked how we are when really, we’re feeling something quite different.

Talking about mental health isn’t always easy and current issues such as the cost of living, energy bills and greater poverty certainly increase anxiety for many of us.  

Starting a conversation can be as simple as checking in with a friend or asking a co-worker how things are going.  Talking about mental health reduces stigma and can be the first step in getting the necessary support.

In Scotland, Time to Talk Day is run by See Me with Scottish Action for Mental Health.  www.seemescotland.org

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The last week in January was dominated by all things Burns, as is customary at this time of year. 

This was the 265th anniversary of our national bard’s birth in Alloway and I was privileged to lay a floral tribute at his statue in Burns Statue Square and present Mac McCrostie, president of Ayr Burns Club, with an early day motion which I tabled at Westminster, celebrating the birth of Robert Burns and his legacy. 

There are statues of Burns in almost every corner of the world, from New Cumnock to New Zealand and beyond. It is remarkable to realise that his work not only remains such an integral part of our culture, but continues to be internationally celebrated, with a global relevance and impact long after it was first written.

The commemorations also reminded me of the connections Burns had with New Cumnock, including the cairn outside New Cumnock which I visited just last year.