More than 160 groups and organisations are now providing emergency food aid in Scotland, according to a damning new research.
The figure is in a new report from the Poverty Alliance which states changes to the social security system and the introduction of sanctions, as well as low pay and insecure work are some of the main factors behind the growing need for emergency food.
The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice Alex Neil launched the report at a food bank in his own constituency of Airdrie.
The Scottish Government has now provided the Poverty Alliance with £28,941 to carry out further work with emergency food providers.
This will enable the Alliance to work with those providers to take forward research findings and to focus more strongly on the causes of food poverty and work towards ensuring people get the help needed to move them away from reliance on food aid provision.
Mr Neil said: “The Poverty Alliance report perfectly demonstrates the impact of UK welfare changes. It is unacceptable that so many have had to resort to foodbanks.
“Emergency food aid is not a sustainable response to the issue of food poverty and its underlying drivers and it cannot become an established feature of the welfare system in Scotland.”
“We have seen previously in figures from the The Trussell Trust, that there has been a shocking increase in food bank usage. This speaks volumes about the real poverty in our society when people can’t feed their families without help and support from food aid organisations.”
The Poverty Alliance report follows figures from The Trussell Trust which shows a rapid and dramatic rise in the number of people accessing emergency food aid in Scotland.
The Trussell Trust has reported a 12 fold increase in usage of emergency food aid in just three years – in 2011/12 5726 people in Scotland accessed food aid, while in 2013/14 that figure was 71,428.
The Poverty Alliance report concludes that more effort should be concentrated on how emergency food aid providers can better connect people with mainstream support services.
Providers working in close partnership with other services have been shown to offer better support to those in need, connecting them to the advice and support required to address underlying issues which have led them to access emergency food aid in the first place.
Director of The Poverty Alliance Peter Kelly said:
“We need to build on the good work that food aid providers are already doing. Volunteers are providing help to people experiencing real difficulties in often complex circumstances.
“There is a need to develop partnership working between emergency food aid providers to share ideas, experiences and good practice.
“In the longer term we need to ensure that we are developing policy solutions that address the root causes of food poverty. The support from the Scottish Government will help the Poverty Alliance ensure that those who are on the frontline tackling food poverty are able to contribute to finding these solutions.”
The Trussell Trust Scotland Network Manager Ewan Gurr added:
“It has been a pleasure to work alongside and support the research carried out by our colleagues at the Poverty Alliance and we appreciate the consistency of the Scottish Government as they explore creative ways to tackle food poverty in Scotland.
“The voluntary sector, largely, has an openness to exploring fresh ways in which we can enhance the level of support people are offered.
“We welcome the report and believe it is important for us, as well as other food providers, to digest the findings. It has always been my ultimate desire that our foodbanks are places where dignity is restored, hope is revived and the support is comprehensive and robust.”
To help food aid providers develop a better understanding of the range of support available for users of emergency food aid and identify additional support, the Poverty Alliance has developed a web based resource to assist those delivering emergency food aid better link with mainstream services such as Citizen’s Advice Scotland as well as with other information and links to key support services at www.foodaidscotland.org.