Food insecurity is the experience of not having access to sufficient quantity or quality of food needed to stay healthy. The degree of severity of food insecurity can vary. Mild food insecurity involves worrying about being able to afford enough food, while at the most acute end of the spectrum severe food insecurity means experiencing hunger. We know that people facing food insecurity adopt a number of coping strategies including, for the acutely food insecure, turning to emergency food aid.
There is currently no systematic measure of household food insecurity in Scotland and therefore the true scale of the problem is not known. Data from food banks shows a context of rising need. Yet we know many people don’t access emergency food at all. The most recent official surveys in Scotland show that nearly one in ten adults were worried they would run out of food due to a lack of money or resources, with this rising to nearly one in six adults in the most deprived areas.
Food insecurity in Scotland is caused by too much poverty, not too little food. As A Menu for Change has explored, the evidence suggests key drivers of acute food insecurity are income crises caused by: the operation and adequacy of the benefits system, low income, insecure work and the rising cost of living. Until we evolve our approach to do more to prevent people reaching the point of hunger by tackling the underlying causes of income crises, the need for emergency food aid in Scotland is unlikely to end.