Organisations are struggling to respond to hunger in the community, and have called for the Scottish Government to step in
Food poverty groups have joined forces to call for an end to Scotland’s reliance on foodbanks.
In a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, workers and volunteers from foodbanks, community food groups, and poverty organisations have outlined their concerns over the country’s reliance on charity amid a sharp increase in the number of people experiencing food insecurity.
The call comes as local and national organisations are struggling to cope with the increase in demand for emergency food aid during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Trussell Trust reported an 89% increase in need for emergency food parcels during April and Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) figures show a 246% increase in the number of parcels distributed in Scotland in April 2020 in comparison to last year.
Even before the current crisis, 596,472 emergency food parcels were handed out in Scotland between April 2018 and September 2019, equating to more than 1000 food parcels every day. This amounts to a 22% increase in comparison to the previous 18 months.
The letter calls for an end to the dependence on foodbanks – stressing that direct monetary relief must be provided to those in need, so that everyone is able to access food with safety and dignity.
Organisations who have signed the letter include Nourish Scotland, FARE Scotland and Edinburgh Community Food.
The organisations behind the letter believe that a Right to Food must be enshrined in Scottish law to ensure that the duty to address food insecurity is placed squarely on the government and not on local communities or charities.
Signatories to the letter have called for food hubs to be opened, or for established foodbanks to be supported to transform into community-led food hubs in areas where people have little or no access to nutritious food. Food Hubs are places where anyone can easily access healthy, affordable food, close to home, in a dignified way. They go beyond just providing food to act as a locus of knowledge sharing, skill development, empowerment and community building.
Pete Ritchie, director of Nourish Scotland said: “Foodbanks have been the iconic response to the financial crash. Let’s not repeat that mistake.
“A greener, fairer food system where each and every one of us can afford and access good food with dignity must be part of our nation’s response to the pandemic. This letter from the people who are witnessing the human impact of this crisis is a call for food justice, and Nourish Scotland fully supports this call.”
Joseph Lowit, community garden workshop leader at St Paul’s Youth Forum in Glasgow, said: “Whilst the Scottish government espouses a cash first approach to food poverty we have found as food workers that in reality financial aid simply isn’t readily available to most people we support. Which isn’t particularly surprising - if we had a proper cashbased system in place, most wouldn’t be coming to foodbanks for help in the first place.
“I am enormously proud of the way my colleagues have stepped up to this unprecedented challenge, but can’t help feeling that the fact community groups and foodbanks have had to play such a vital role in this crisis can only speak to a collective failure in our society.
“Simply put, people shouldn’t be reliant on the charity of others, or dependent on donated and surplus food, to stop them going hungry at night. This should be a basic civil right.
“We have to stop putting money into short-term reactionary responses to endemic problems. There is plenty of food to go around; food insecurity is an issue of poverty and emergency provision in response to poverty is never going to resolve the fundamental challenges our society faces.
“We need wholesale systemic changes. We need to ensure that everyone in Scotland can access healthy, sustainable and nutritious food in a dignified and compassionate way.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We recognise and commend organisations who have responded quickly and compassionately to support people facing difficulties during the pandemic.
“As we move beyond the immediate crisis, we remain committed working with partners to ending the need for emergency food aid in Scotland.”
Life at the foodbank
“As an asylum seeker in the corona crisis I’m worried about my family’s health.
“The main shops are far away and if you’re not allowed to travel you have to go to the newsagent. It’s expensive, there isn’t enough money to buy everything you need, and it doesn’t sell fruit and vegetables.
“Every child needs a healthy diet, and when people don’t have enough money they will feed their children and they won’t eat themselves. But when you have a child and you don’t have a support network and you get ill yourself, you are in trouble.
“When I get the parcel, I can save money on food and buy clothes for my son. He grows so fast. The school is sending home schooling tasks to us and they expect that we have the materials at home. When I save money on food I can buy him the materials he needs for his school work.”