Mapping the bigger picture: how many emergency food parcels are given out in Scotland?

Just how many emergency food parcels are given out across Scotland a year?

The short answer?

We don’t know.

We do know that Trussell Trust food banks represent around 56% of the Scottish food bank picture and gave out 170, 625 parcels to adults and children from April 2017 to April 2018.

However, the collective scale of food parcel distribution within the independent sector, the remaining 44% of the food bank picture in Scotland, is unknown.

That’s why the Independent Food Aid Network has joined forces with A Menu for Change to collect data on independent food parcel distribution across Scotland. This data will provide us vital intelligence on just how many people in Scotland can’t afford to buy food and are turning to food banks.

We’re delighted that 77% of all Scottish independent food bank venues (69 out of 89) are working with us, especially because we know these organisations are working tirelessly every week to provide emergency food parcels across 18 local authority areas.

We have met with representatives from a variety of independent food banks and food parcel distributors to discuss how we’ll work together to collect food parcel statistics.

The engagement and enthusiasm has been inspiring. As Lorraine McCormick from Oban’s Hope Kitchen said: “It was lovely to meet people doing the same work as us. We are really excited to be taking part in the project and it has already made us think about how we collect our data.”

These meetings have also provided opportunities for independent food bank managers and coordinators to meet each other, often for the first time, and to share immediate concerns and best practice. We’re really grateful to everyone who took the time to come along, despite often facing a long journey.

We’ll be collating information across the sector on the numbers of parcels distributed and the numbers of children and adults helped, with room to collate further data if available. We hope to be able to release data on the number of parcels distributed and the number of adults and children helped by independent food banks and food parcel distributors during 2017 and 2018 soon. And we’ll be collecting data for publication for the first quarter of 2019 from January.

Claire Slight and Anne McCormack of the Broke not Broken Food Bank based in Kinross summed up the significance of this work:

As with many other independent food banks, our aim is to be redundant. Seeing the data that has up until now been missing from the public realm will be a real wake-up call, we hope, to society and in particular the system that has become reliant on food banks.

“It will enable a true reflection of the huge hole in the system the food banks have been filling which has been hit time and time again by budget cuts, not only in terms of in-work poverty, child poverty and food poverty, but also with regards to mental health support, addiction support and care for the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Charity Pritchard, of Edinburgh City Mission’s Basics Banks, agreed, adding: “This project is vital to ending food poverty. We need to work together with organisations like these to enable a joint approach for nationwide change. The voices of those we support need to be heard and represented in discussions about ending food poverty in Scotland.”

Wondering who’s taking part in our project so far? Take a look at our map and full list of participants. 

If you’d like to find out more please contact Sabine at scotlandindependentstats@gmail.com

Sabine Goodwin works as the Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network and has been responsible for the identification and mapping of independent food banks/food parcel distributors across the whole of the UK.