The Scottish Government commissioned researchers at Heriot Watt University to undertake a scoping study aimed at providing an overview of the nature of food aid provision in Scotland, and to explore the feasibility of monitoring food aid provision and demand in the future. In particular, the study considered whether data from the Trussell Trust adequately reflects the picture across Scotland.
Efforts were made to identify all food aid providers in eight selected case study locations: Glasgow City, Dundee City, Inverness, Fort William, Stirling, Falkirk, Kirriemuir and Forfar. Key food aid providers in each location were interviewed.
The types of food aid that were the main focus of this study were provision of food parcels (including food banks) and provision of meals by institutions such as hostels, day centres and community cafes (collectively referred to here as ‘soup kitchens’).
Across the eight study locations, a total of 55 providers of food aid were identified, between them delivering 36 food parcel and 38 meals services.
Increased demand for food aid was observed by all providers interviewed for this study (food parcel services and ‘soup kitchens’). All were in agreement that welfare reform, benefit delays, benefit sanctions and falling incomes have been the main factors driving this increase in demand.
Only Trussell Trust food banks systematically undertake detailed monitoring. However, this research found that Trussell Trust figures regarding demand/drivers of demand broadly reflect those of other food parcel providers who participated in the study and, to a more limited extent, also providers of ‘soup kitchens’. The findings suggest there may not be substantial added value in going beyond Trussell Trust data to provide an indication of general trends in demand/drivers of demand, and the research indicates it would, in any case, be difficult to ‘sign up’ non-Trussell Trust providers to undertake the same level of monitoring. Options are, however, suggested for obtaining more detailed information on scale and dynamics of demand, and on monitoring the impact of welfare reform, to capture the experiences of the wider food aid landscape.
The study’s findings suggest that it would not be possible to produce a Scotland-wide demographic profile of the client base for food parcel services or ‘soup kitchens’.