The Scottish Government has announced that it is to allocate £518,000 to tackling the growing food poverty crisis in Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s ‘Emergency Food Fund’ (EFF) will support charities and other community based organisations in alleviating food poverty across the country, as well as tackling its underlying causes. According to the Scottish Government the funding will be used to increase food provision, promote healthy eating and provide benefits advice to Scottish households affected by UK Government’s welfare cuts.

Figures from the UK’s largest food bank charity, Trussell Trust, show a 400% increase in the number of Scottish people requiring emergency food aid in the last financial year (2013/14). Between April 2013 and March 2014 more than 71,400 food parcels were given to struggling Scots (see regional breakdown), including over 22,000 children.  This figure only represents the number of people helped by Trussell Trust food banks, and does not include other charities or community led initiatives.

Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, blamed the startling rise on “welfare reform, benefit delays, benefit sanctions and falling incomes”. She added that “one million people in Scotland are now living in relative poverty”. Ms Sturgeon also expressed concerns that further UK Government cuts to Scotland’s welfare budget could see up to 100,000 Scottish children living in poverty by 2020.

The EEF is part of a wider £1 million investment in food aid, half of which has already been allocated to FairShare; a UK charity who help distribute surplus food from supermarkets, and other retail businesses, to charities supporting local communities.

Ms Nicola Sturgeon said:

“The amount of people experiencing food poverty in Scotland is simply not acceptable. Worryingly the Trussell Trust has seen a 400 per cent increase in people using food banks between April 2013 and March 2014 which includes more than 22,000 children using these services.

“Welfare reform, benefit delays, benefit sanctions and falling incomes are all having a detrimental impact on the people of Scotland.

She added: “Most people recognise that the increase in food bank use is directly linked to welfare reform and benefit cuts, and this fund is another example of what we are doing to mitigate the harmful effects of Westminster’s welfare cuts. However, the impact is still being felt by the most vulnerable in our society.

“One million people in Scotland are now living in relative poverty after housing costs, including more than 200,000 children.

“What is even more worrying is that 70 per cent of the welfare cuts are still to come – Scotland will see its welfare budget reduced by over £6 billion by 2015/16. And some estimates suggest that up to 100,000 more children could be living in poverty by 2020 if we continue with Westminster policies.”

A welfare debate is scheduled to take place in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 13 August.

The Trussell Trust say that families and individuals need to be referred to one of their food banks by front-line healthcare professionals, or others best placed to assess genuine need, before they can receive emergency food aid.