A Menu for Change is being delivered by four project partners: Oxfam Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, Nourish Scotland and The Poverty Alliance. All partners were part of the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty – this project builds on the findings of that working group and seeks to move them into practice.
Oxfam Scotland is the Scottish arm of Oxfam GB. Oxfam GB is one of the 18 Oxfam affiliates within the confederation of Oxfam International. We currently work in more than 90 countries and food security remains a core strand of our work. We take a livelihood approach to food security, and focus not only on saving lives in the short term, but on strengthening livelihoods to ensure households are less vulnerable in the future. We seek to ensure lessons from our international programme inform our work in the UK, and vice versa.
Across the UK, Oxfam has been deeply engaged in work around food insecurity. With our partners we have produced a series of reports examining the growth in food bank use and the key drivers, including: Walking the Breadline, Below the Breadline and Emergency Use Only. We have undertaken extensive advocacy linked to these. In Scotland, we supported CPAG Scotland to publish Hard Choices: Reducing the Need for Food Banks in Scotland.
Amid growing demand for emergency food aid in the UK, in 2012 Oxfam started working with the Trussell Trust to support communities to open food banks. We also worked with, and funded, FareShare, as well as working collaboratively with schools, a local food bank and a city farm in Tower Hamlets to improve access to healthy food. In Scotland, Oxfam also supported the creation of the West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare.
However, as the need for food aid evolved from emergency to chronic need, Oxfam has shifted our approach – learning from our global experience – to focus on the underlying causes. We recognise the need to strike an appropriate balance between: Relief work (emergency relief), Recovery (upstream interventions) and Reform (structural change).
Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland
CPAG are the leading provider of expert second tier training, information and advice on UK and devolved social security and its interactions with other sources of financial support for families in Scotland. CPAG have a track record in developing and delivering high quality training courses, events, information materials and case work support to frontline workers across Scotland, including training and awareness raising sessions for food bank providers and resources on e.g. supporting clients with no money. CPAG also brings to the partnership a track record of integrating basic benefits training into broader training for frontline workers on the implications of welfare reform and rising child poverty for service design and delivery.
CPAG also have a specific track record in relation to tackling food insecurity and crisis. They undertook research with food bank users as part of the UK wide Emergency Use Only, and with partners Trussell Trust and Oxfam Scotland published a Scotland specific report Hard Choices highlighting the role devolved services and policy can play in reducing food bank demand. At UK level, CPAG has run a successful welfare rights project in a food bank in Tower Hamlets in order to understand in more depth the social security failings that underpin food bank use.
Nourish Scotland is a relatively young organisation and in that time has had a significant impact on the food policy landscape in Scotland. Uniquely, we read across all the food system issues, from technical approaches to agroecological farming to legal expertise on the right to food, and from local economic development through short food chains to diet-related health inequalities.
One of our first major events ‘Feeding the Five Million’ in September 2013 convened diverse teams to hear from an international panel of expert witnesses and produce a joint report over two days on the future of the Scottish food system. The conference report and ongoing advocacy from Nourish were major influences on Scottish Government’s subsequent ‘Becoming a Good Food Nation’ policy.
On food poverty specifically Nourish has been a vocal critic of reliance on food banks as a way of tackling food insecurity. We were involved in the advisory group for Emergency Use Only and advocated for the case studies to include Scotland, securing funding via NHS Health Scotland for this to happen.
In October 2015 Nourish gave written and oral evidence to the pre-sessional hearing of the UN Committee in Geneva reviewing the UK’s performance under the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. This helped to ensure that food featured on the Committee’s list of issues.
The Poverty Alliance
The Poverty Alliance is the national anti-poverty network in Scotland. Formally established in 1992, the Alliance has more than 200 members drawn from across civil society and the public sector. The Poverty Alliance has a 25 year track record in delivering activities designed to support and empower people with direct experience of poverty to influence the decisions that affect their lives; to strengthen community and voluntary sector networks in Scotland; to co-produce evidence on the nature and impact of poverty. In all of this activity, the Alliance has taken a preventive approach, seeking to influence policy ‘upstream’ in order to reduce poverty. It has worked across a range of policy areas including welfare reform, in-work poverty, community empowerment, food and fuel poverty, attitudes and beliefs about poverty.
The Alliance will bring to this project our extensive experience in community engagement activities, building networks, participatory action research and policy advocacy. We have been engaged in issues related to food and poverty since the 1990s, from early studies of ‘food deserts’ in Scotland through to activity in the last few years bring emergency food aid providers together to exchange knowledge and experience. This research, Making the Connections: A Study of Emergency Food Aid in Scotland, was published in 2015 and has been used to help shape the on-going response to emergency food aid in Scotland.
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