Sabine Goodwin of End Hunger UK partner Independent Food Aid Network tells us more about her research with independent food banks in Scotland alongside A Menu for Change…
We’ve known that emergency food parcel distribution has been growing year on year in Scotland because of the invaluable research of our EHUK colleagues the Trussell Trust. But there’s been a large missing piece to the jigsaw – how much support has been given out to adults and children by independent food banks? Thanks to our partnership with A Menu for Change, I’ve been able to find out more.
I’d already mapped 94 independent food banks operating across Scotland from April 2017 to September 2018 so I set about asking their managers and volunteer teams for any data they’d collected during that time. With increasing demand for emergency food supplies, these grassroots organisations are firefighting on a daily basis but their representatives were determined to help with our data collation. They knew that their work was unheard of and that we couldn’t understand the true scale of food bank use in Scotland without their input.
By now I’ve been able to count the number of food parcels that 84 of those 94 independent food banks gave out during that same 18-month period – April 2017 to September 2018. The results are shocking. Independent food banks, operating in 18 Scottish local authorities, distributed no less than 221,977 emergency food parcels. Added to the Trussell Trust’s distribution of 258,606 parcels, that makes a total of nearly half a million parcels given out by Scottish food banks.
As Evan Adamson of Instant Neighbour in Aberdeen said: “It’s truly staggering to think about how many people in our community and across Scotland are relying on emergency food aid.”
And this disaster on our doorstep is certainly greater than our figures reveal. We know that our statistics don’t include the emergency meals and other forms of food aid provided by countless independent organisations across Scotland, nor the people who don’t access food aid at all and try and find other ways to cope.
It doesn’t take much analysis to understand that with at least 709 more independent food banks operating in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the contribution of independent food banks represents a large missing piece of the UK charitable food aid picture.
And now we know much more about the scale of emergency food parcel provision in Scotland what can be done?
As Mary McGinley, Chair of Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank in Argyll and Bute put it: “We are deeply dismayed by the rising demand for emergency food aid we’re seeing locally. We don’t want to be here; we would much rather see our political leaders address the causes of food insecurity through the introduction of the living wage, a better social security system and easier access to emergency welfare payments to allow people to buy their own food.”
We hope that the Scottish and UK Governments will take notice of this data and act urgently to address food insecurity. In Scotland, A Menu for Change is using these shocking new figures to urge the Scottish Government to bring in a promised income supplement for Scotland’s poorest families as soon as possible.
Further details of our research can be found here.
Sabine Goodwin is the Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network and led the research in Scotland with A Menu for Change. She would like to express her gratitude to the many independent food banks across Scotland contributing data and time to this project. http://www.foodaidnetwork.org.uk/food-bank-data-in-scotland
Alison Cohen, Senior Director of Programs at Why Hunger in New York, suggests how the UK might resist the institutionalisation of charitable food aid by learning from the North American experience. (more…)
We are calling on the government to count the number of people who worry about where their next meal is coming from, or who cannot afford to eat. This level of ‘household food insecurity’ is currently unknown – but could easily be measured, using pre-existing survey questions developed by the United Nations or the United States. Once we know the level of household food insecurity, we can begin to address the causes. You can find out more about the campaign on our dedicated campaign pages.
Household Food Insecurity Private Members Bill
Tim Farron MP attending the Behind Closed Doors exhibition in London. Mashed potato image ©James Lane and Huw Nicholls 2018
We have been working with Emma Lewell-Buck MP to promote her Private Members’ Bill on the need to measure household food insecurity. If passed this Bill would instruct the government to count those people who worry about being able to afford food, or who cannot afford food, across the whole of the UK.
Emma Lewell-Buck MP has been working to get the support of a number of external partners to support the Bill. For example, several education unions have publicly supported it because they recognise levels of food poverty in schools. This includes; the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, National Education Union, Association of School and College Leaders and the Association of Head Teachers.
The Bill also now has the support of over 150 MPs. Initially it was scheduled to be heard at the end of October, However, this date was changed to the 23rd of November. Sadly, it looks as if the bill may not be heard on this date either, as there are many in front of it. But it may be that the bill is moved again. We need to ensure the government understand the need for measurement and support what we are calling for in order to ensure the bill is successful. End Hunger UK will continue to work with Emma Lewell-Buck to ensure that this happens.
Behind Closed Doors Exhibition
A picture which featured in the Behind Closed Doors exhibition. An example of a meal someone in food poverty eats.
©James Lane and Huw Nicholls 2018
Over the summer, we took an exhibition highlighting food poverty in the UK to several places including Bristol, Chester, Cardiff, Carlisle and London. The exhibition highlighted that we do not know how many people live in food poverty because many people try and deal with their situation ‘Behind Closed Doors’, and food bank statistics are only part of the picture.
The exhibition also featured poems from the young people who won the End Hunger UK and Poetry Society’s ‘Poetry to End Hunger’ competition.
Those attending the exhibition were asked to sign postcards to their MP calling on them to support Emma Lewell-Buck’s Private Members Bill. As a result, 63 MPs who had not signed up to support the bill received postcards.
Measuring household food insecurity and the Sustainable Development Goals
The UK has signed up to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 2 calls for Zero Hunger, and by signing up to this the government should also be measuring levels of household food poverty in the UK. End Hunger UK submitted written and verbal evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee, a body which examines how the government’s policies and programmes are impacting the environment and sustainable development. We reminded the government of the need to measure household food insecurity in our testimony.
Our campaign has achieved a huge victory. We have heard, via a letter from the Prime Minister’s office to Emma Lewell-Buck MP, that the government will be measuring the level of household food insecurity for 2018. The letter says:
‘I can…confirm that the relevant United States Department of Agriculture Household Food Security questions will be included in the next wave of the Food Standards Agency’s “Food and You” survey which will be published in the spring of 2019”.
You can read the full letter on Emma Lewell-Buck MP’s Twitter page.
Whilst this is excellent news, there is still more to be done – as the government have not committed to continuing with the survey past 2018. We need to keep campaigning to ensure that household food insecurity is both measured and monitored every year.
What is next? What can you do?
We will continue to call on the government to support Emma Lewell-Buck’s Private Members’ Bill.
Visit the exhibition:
We have one final showing of the exhibition in London before the second reading of the Private Members’ Bill. Details are:
- 23rd November 9am to 5pm; Behind Closed Doors Exhibition, Greater London Authority building, City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London, SE1 2AA. In the ‘Map Area’ which you can access via the main entrance. No need to register for tickets, you can just turn up throughout the day.
If you haven’t done so already please email your MP and ask them to support the Private Members Bill.
If you have already emailed you can always contact them via Twitter too.
Read the text of the press release we have sent out ahead of the hand-in of our national petition calling on the UK government to Fix Universal Credit, at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday.
Nearly one in ten people in Scotland are Food Insecure
The figures released this week as part of the Scottish Health Survey help shed some light on the scale of food insecurity in Scotland. Imogen Richmond-Bishop from Sustain discusses why this shows we need routine food insecurity measurement across the U.K.