A new group has been created to tack food poverty and find possible solutions for Scotland’s increasing reliance on foodbanks.
Representatives from poverty organisations and charities will convene on Monday for the first meeting of the short life working group, to identify the issues which push people into food poverty and discuss how they can be addressed.
The group, chaired by the Secretary of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, has been asked to make recommendations to the Scottish Government by February 2016 on the actions required to eradicate food poverty in Scotland.
The first meeting coincides with the Poverty Alliance’s annual Challenge Poverty Week which runs from October 17 to 23 and aims to challenge the stereotypes around poverty and increase public support to combat it.
The latest statistics from the Trussell Trust show that a total of 117,689 people picked up a three-day supply of groceries from their Scottish foodbanks in 2014-15. Of those, 36,114 were children. This is more than eight times the number helped just two years ago.
Nearby foodbanks are located in the Holy Trinity Church, the Broomhouse Community One Stop Shop and at the Health Agency.
Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said:
It is heart breaking that anyone should be left hungry and unable to afford to feed their families in a country as prosperous as Scotland.
UK Government welfare cuts and benefit sanctions have continually pushed more and more people into food poverty and increased the demand and number of food banks in Scotland. This shocking trend has to stop.
By bringing together a range of experts who support people in food poverty we hope the group will come up with a food strategy that will reduce the need for foodbanks over time.
Food poverty cannot be solved overnight which is why the group will look at how we can address some of its long-term causes and whether we can take a more joined up approach to welfare benefits advice, health and employment support services.
I look forward to hearing the group’s recommendations on how we can ease the pressure on food banks, tackle food poverty and create a fairer Scotland.
The Scottish Government currently invests £1 million into the Emergency Food Action Plan which helps support 26 local emergency food aid projects and the charity Fareshare to redistribute surplus food from retailers to communities across Scotland.
The group’s recommendations will feed into the Scottish Government’s Social Justice Action Plan. This will be published in the new year with milestones to the next Parliament and beyond to help tackle poverty and create fairer opportunities for all.