Pilots will be run in Dundee, East Ayrshire and Fife
Major Scottish charities are combining in a project to help people in deprived communities combat food insecurity.
They will work together to provide co-ordinated support aimed at reducing the need for and reliance on emergency food aid.
Local groups in three pilot areas - in Dundee, East Ayrshire and Fife – will work intensively to ensure people access statutory and cash-based crisis support, including the Scottish Welfare Fund.
They will also promote alternative, dignified ways of supporting those who are food insecure, such as community cafes and food cooperatives.
The project – called A Menu for Change: Cash, Rights, Food – is a partnership between Oxfam Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Nourish Scotland and The Poverty Alliance.
Anela Anwar, Oxfam Scotland programme manager, said: “We are really pleased to be working with local partners in these three areas but we are determined to learn lessons to inform the response to food insecurity right across Scotland.
“It is a scandal that while shops in Scotland are stuffed full with food so many people’s stomachs are empty because they can’t afford to buy food.
“A Menu for Change is working to prevent foodbanks from becoming a permanent part of Scotland’s social security net. Even at a time of crisis, everyone in Scotland should have the money they need to feed themselves and their families, and buy other basic essentials.”
Latest figures show a growing hunger problem in Scotland, with the number of emergency food aid packages handed out by the Trussell Trust increasing by more than 900% in the three years up to 2015/16.
However, these figures are only the tip of the iceberg, with the true scale of household food insecurity in Scotland still unknown due to a lack of available data on people who use other crisis services or skip meals instead of going to foodbanks.
Mum of three Shona turned to a food bank after her benefits were sanctioned. She said: “I felt like I’d failed. You’re supposed to be able to protect and feed your kids. Politicians sit in their big high offices and drive their big cars, but I bet you they’ve never struggled to buy bread or milk. If I had cash instead I could provide better instead of having to rely on help. Nobody should not have any money to buy food.”
Equalities secretary Angela Constance said: “We believe that access to sufficient nutritious food is a basic human right and that no one in a nation that is as prosperous as Scotland should have to access foodbanks.
“A range of actions are needed to stop people having to rely on emergency food provision, including our £1 million a year Fair Food Fund and the support provided to people in crisis via the £38m Scottish Welfare Fund. We are also continuing to address the underlying issues of food poverty.
“I’m encouraged to see this partnership coming together to help people and treat them in a dignified and respectful manner - something which the Scottish Government also places at the heart of its work.”
The three-year project has bee awarded nearly £1m by The Big Lottery Fund Scotland.
Alex Rowley, Scottish Labour deputy leader and equalities spokesperson, who helped launch the project at a reception at the Scottish Parliament, said: “The people of Scotland have responded incredibly generously to help their neighbours who are struggling to put food on the table, whether volunteering or donating to a foodbank.
“However the reality is foodbanks were never intended as a long-term solution to hunger and they should not become an entrenched part of our social safety net.
“This project offers a real opportunity to pilot alternative approaches to addressing food insecurity. All political parties should redouble our efforts to ensure everyone is treated with dignity, respect and given the support they need to tackle the underlying income crises which have resulted in a surge in foodbank use in Scotland.”