Nearly half a million parcels given out in 18 months
Shocking new figures published today have exposed an alarming picture of food bank use in Scotland, with nearly double the number of food parcels being given out than previously thought.
The new data, collected by the Independent Food Aid Network and A Menu for Change, for the first time reveals the startling number of food parcels given out by independently run food banks across the country.
The data shows that between April 2017 and September 2018, 84 independent food banks distributed 221,977 emergency food packages. Previously, centralised data for the number of food parcels collectively distributed by independent food banks hasn’t existed.
The numbers of three-day food supplies given out by independently run food banks build on existing figures, published by the Trussell Trust, which showed their network of 118 food banks distributed 258,606 food parcels during the same time period.
The new combined statistics mean that an estimated total of at least 480,583 food parcels – nearly half a million – were distributed by both Trussell Trust and independent food banks across Scotland between April 2017 and September 2018.
Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, led the research. She said: “These statistics are deeply troubling, and provide yet more evidence of the growing number of people in Scotland who are unable to put food on the table.
“They also demonstrate the enormous collective effort of independent food bank volunteers and staff who are doing all they can to try to prevent people in their communities from facing hunger. Of course, we and they all know the long-term solution to hunger isn’t giving out food; it’s raising income. People should be helped financially well before they find themselves having to turn to a food bank as a last resort.”
The true scale of food bank provision in Scotland is even higher than today’s combined figures reveal, as a small number of independent food banks operational in Scotland during the research period were unable to contribute data to the Independent Food Aid Network and A Menu for Change’s joint project.
Experts are also warning that data on food parcel distribution still only provides a partial picture of the number of people in Scotland who are struggling to feed themselves and their families; with most people choosing to use other ways of coping, like skipping meals, rather than use a food bank. Last year, figures released by the Scottish Government revealed that one in five single parents in Scotland had faced hunger.
Kirkcaldy Foodbank operates multiple venues where people can access emergency food supplies. Joyce Leggate, Chair of the Foodbank, said: “Today’s statistics represent a worrying and growing number of people across Scotland who are struggling to make ends meet. Every day in Kirkcaldy, we meet people who are being driven to our doors because of problems with the benefits system. A third of the food parcels we give out go to families with children; the innocent victims of a system which is pushing people into debt, despair and poverty.
“We hope that today’s figures shine a light on the previously hidden role independent food banks are playing in picking up the pieces of a failing social safety net, and spur policy makers into taking decisive action to stop food banks like ours from becoming entrenched in Scottish society.”
Research shows that problems with the UK wide benefits system is one of the key drivers of food bank use, but Scottish campaigners from A Menu for Change say that the Scottish Government must urgently use its new social security powers to help prevent people in Scotland from being pushed further into poverty.
Scottish Ministers have promised to bring in a new income supplement by 2022 to help Scotland’s poorest families, but campaigners say people facing hardship can’t afford to wait three years for this extra support.
Dr. Mary Anne MacLeod, Research and Policy Officer at A Menu for Change, said: “These figures are truly shameful in rich Scotland and they should make for deeply uncomfortable reading for our political leaders: the problem of rising levels of hunger in Scotland is much worse than previously known.
“The Scottish Government should be commended for its plans to help families put food on the table through the new income supplement, but promises to help people in three years’ time are of little comfort to parents whose cupboards are empty right now.
“If the Scottish Government wants to reduce the number of people facing hunger, it must urgently bring forward its plans to top up the incomes of Scotland’s poorest families from 2022.”
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For more information and interviews, please contact: Rebecca Lozza, Media and Communications Officer, Oxfam Scotland, on 0141 285 8875 or RLozza1@Oxfam.org.uk
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Download the full briefing here: http://bit.ly/2HFxSQS
- A Menu for Change is a partnership project run by Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Nourish Scotland, Oxfam Scotland and the Poverty Alliance, and funded by the Big Lottery Fund. It aims to reduce the need for food banks.
- The Independent Food Aid Network supports and connects a range of independent frontline food aid organisations while advocating on their behalf at a national level. Their vision is of a country that doesn’t need emergency food aid and in which good food is accessible to all.
- IFAN has been responsible for the identification of at least 803 independent food banks and food parcel distributors across the UK – foodaidnetwork.org.uk/mapping
- In September 2018, the Scottish Government for the first-time published statistics on the number of people in Scotland facing hunger. Its data revealed that one in five – 21% – of single parents in Scotland had faced hunger, with 16-44 year olds and people living in poor areas most likely to be going hungry. Read more: https://menuforchange.org.uk/response-to-the-scottish-health-survey/
- In March 2021, the UK Government will publish inaugural statistics on the number of people facing hunger across the UK through the DWP’s Family Resources Survey.
- Read A Menu for Change’s briefing Insights into the Impact of Universal Credit on Food Insecurity here: https://menuforchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Universal-Credit-briefing.pdf