About Food Insecurity

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 the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank provider, indicate that the numbers having to turn to emergency food provision have continued to increase over recent years. In 2016-17 they provided more than 145,000 food parcels to people in crisis – a record high and up 9 per cent on the previous year. Yet we know the full scale of food insecurity will be much greater than this limited information suggests. This is because people may use non-Trussell Trust food banks, and particularly because many people don’t access emergency food at all.

Food insecurity in Scotland is caused by too much poverty, not too little food. 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 likely to continue to grow.

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