Sabine Goodwin of End Hunger UK partner Independent Food Aid Network tells us more about her research with independent food banks in Scotland alongside A Menu for Change…
We’ve known that emergency food parcel distribution has been growing year on year in Scotland because of the invaluable research of our EHUK colleagues the Trussell Trust. But there’s been a large missing piece to the jigsaw – how much support has been given out to adults and children by independent food banks? Thanks to our partnership with A Menu for Change, I’ve been able to find out more.
I’d already mapped 94 independent food banks operating across Scotland from April 2017 to September 2018 so I set about asking their managers and volunteer teams for any data they’d collected during that time. With increasing demand for emergency food supplies, these grassroots organisations are firefighting on a daily basis but their representatives were determined to help with our data collation. They knew that their work was unheard of and that we couldn’t understand the true scale of food bank use in Scotland without their input.
By now I’ve been able to count the number of food parcels that 84 of those 94 independent food banks gave out during that same 18-month period – April 2017 to September 2018. The results are shocking. Independent food banks, operating in 18 Scottish local authorities, distributed no less than 221,977 emergency food parcels. Added to the Trussell Trust’s distribution of 258,606 parcels, that makes a total of nearly half a million parcels given out by Scottish food banks.
As Evan Adamson of Instant Neighbour in Aberdeen said: “It’s truly staggering to think about how many people in our community and across Scotland are relying on emergency food aid.”
And this disaster on our doorstep is certainly greater than our figures reveal. We know that our statistics don’t include the emergency meals and other forms of food aid provided by countless independent organisations across Scotland, nor the people who don’t access food aid at all and try and find other ways to cope.
It doesn’t take much analysis to understand that with at least 709 more independent food banks operating in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the contribution of independent food banks represents a large missing piece of the UK charitable food aid picture.
And now we know much more about the scale of emergency food parcel provision in Scotland what can be done?
As Mary McGinley, Chair of Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank in Argyll and Bute put it: “We are deeply dismayed by the rising demand for emergency food aid we’re seeing locally. We don’t want to be here; we would much rather see our political leaders address the causes of food insecurity through the introduction of the living wage, a better social security system and easier access to emergency welfare payments to allow people to buy their own food.”
We hope that the Scottish and UK Governments will take notice of this data and act urgently to address food insecurity. In Scotland, A Menu for Change is using these shocking new figures to urge the Scottish Government to bring in a promised income supplement for Scotland’s poorest families as soon as possible.
Further details of our research can be found here.
Sabine Goodwin is the Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network and led the research in Scotland with A Menu for Change. She would like to express her gratitude to the many independent food banks across Scotland contributing data and time to this project. http://www.foodaidnetwork.org.uk/food-bank-data-in-scotland