Food banks: What Scotland should do to end the need for them and ensure a 'Hunger Free Future' – Trussell Trust
The pandemic has opened all our eyes to the realities of poverty.
Many people, who had never asked for help before, have been pushed to the brink, unable to afford the basics, and forced to food banks for support.
This isn’t right. Food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network in Scotland gave out a staggering 37,125 parcels from April to September of this year – with around 200 food parcels provided for children every single day. This is a sobering statistic when one person receiving a parcel is one person too many.
Against this bleak backdrop, we witnessed new food banks, pantries, delivery services and projects, in communities the length and breadth of Scotland, stepping up to provide food. There has been a powerful community spirit bringing us together to make sure no-one goes hungry.
But it shouldn’t be left to communities to provide food. We know poverty isn’t about food in this country. It’s about income and people not having enough of it. The people we see at our food banks – who are a tiny proportion of those struggling to make ends meet – cannot afford to heat homes, pay bills and buy food.
This can change. There is something we can do about this.
Here at the Trussell Trust, we have developed a new long-term plan and a campaign – Hunger Free Future – to end the need for food banks altogether. We know the route to doing this requires more money in people’s pockets from work and social security, so people can buy essentials for themselves rather than rely on handouts from charities.
This must start with the Scottish and UK governments using all their powers to deliver a social security system that provides a real lifeline in times of need. The five-week wait for Universal Credit is five weeks too long, driving people to food banks. The £20 Universal Credit top-up, brought in at the start of the pandemic, is needed for the long-term.
Around Scotland, there are some important examples of this shift away from providing emergency food to providing income.
Councils, such as Glasgow City Council, changed from giving food parcels to children entitled to free school meals in the holidays to giving cash. Crucially, families could buy the food they needed just like everyone else, without additional infrastructure to provide parcels.
In Moray, people facing financial hardship can get a package of support from local services, including making sure people get all the benefit income they are entitled to and help negotiating reduced payments with creditors – as well as cash to buy food and other essentials if it’s needed. Coordinated action like this prevents people from needing a food bank in the first place.
Thank you to everyone who has supported our food banks, with time, money or food, especially during these tough times. To help change things for good and end the need for food banks in Scotland, join our campaign to build a Hunger Free Future.
Polly Jones is head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust
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