Ayrshire communities will trial a unique approach to tackling food poverty
An innovative third sector scheme will pioneer a Scotland-wide drive to eradicate food poverty.
The new project, which will provide meals advice, support and mentoring in parts of Ayrshire, will seek to provide affordable food in the area.
Centrestage Communities will deliver it in partnership with FareShare, which redistributes surplus food stock with the aim of reducing dependency on conventional foodbanks.
It will be rolled out in Drongan and Fullarton in East Ayrshire and Pennyburn in North Ayrshire and will be used as a testing ground for an ambitious plan to eradicate food poverty across Scotland.
The approach is based on a pilot project which was delivered in Ardeer earlier this year, and will see a bus providing meals to families facing the challenges associated with poverty.
the learning from this project will help us to develop approaches to eradicate food poverty across Scotland
Once demand is established and local community buy-in delivered, Centrestage will work with communities to open, manage and set up trading of community-led shops and hubs from which support services to tackle issues around food poverty will be offered.
The scheme will receive £200,000 each from the Scottish Government, STV Children’s Appeal and The Hunter Foundation over three years.
Social Justice secretary Alex Neil launched the new project on a visit to Centrestage’s Kilmarnock headquarters.
He said: “It’s unacceptable that in the 21st century there are people who cannot afford to feed their families.
“UK government welfare cuts and benefit sanctions have pushed more and more people into food poverty. But the Scottish Government is clear – no-one should be embarrassed or struggling in silence to feed themselves and their families.
“In the face of the UK government’s austerity agenda, emergency support through foodbanks has been essential but we know the majority of people in need don’t want to rely on a hand out. They want to be self-sufficient and would rather have a supportive hand up.
“This new project in Ayrshire will look to address the high transport costs, take away the stigma of food poverty, and bring communities together so they can tackle the causes of food poverty not just the symptoms. By providing healthy meals and food at reduced costs it will reduce food poverty in a more sustainable way and ultimately encourage communities to set up their own shops and community hubs.
“We expect that the learning from this project will help us to develop approaches to eradicate food poverty across Scotland.”
Through the Centrestage project, the community will also be able to access music, dance and theatre classes. This approach aims to close the inequality gap by giving young people in deprived areas access to activities that build skills and tackle social isolation.
An evaluation group has been established to oversee the learning from the project with members including Professor Harry Burns, Dr Oliver Escobar and Professor Carol Tannahill.
Sir Tom Hunter from the Hunter Foundation said: “We’ve seen first-hand the exceptional impact this programme has had in Ardeer, now the challenge is to see if the model can be scaled across Ayrshire and dynamically adapted for scale-up across communities impacted by poverty across Scotland.
“This isn’t about developing better foodbanks, it’s about getting rid of them once and for all, replacing them with a sustainable enterprise that offers dignity, support and ultimately a hand up and out of poverty for communities across Ayrshire and ultimately Scotland.”
Fiona McKenzie from Centrestage said: “Our experience in Ardeer so far has been incredible and Team Ardeer continues to amaze us. We now have more than 400 children participating in our sessions and community volunteers supporting activities including cookery, musical theatre classes, technical theatre support, art classes, exercise classes, befriending and walking groups.
“The Centrestage approach uses food and the arts to bring people together to unlock the skills and energy of the community. With our new community hub we are now delivering a sustainable service owned and operated by the local community themselves. Every activity has food at its heart, either providing a healthy snack, homemade soup, fresh baking or a cooked meal for every participant.
"The potential in these new communities is wonderful and I can't wait to see what we can achieve together.
The Scottish Government currently invests £1 million into the Emergency Food Action Plan which helps support 26 local emergency food aid projects and Fareshare to redistribute surplus food from the food industry to communities across Scotland.
Ministers recently set up a working group on food poverty which will give recommendations on addressing the rising number of foodbanks in the new year.