Dignity: Ending Hunger Together in Scotland

Report of the Independent Working Group on food poverty.

This document is part of a collection

5: Invest

The test of a good food system is how well, within environmental limits, it nourishes the poorest and least powerful in society. Historically, this has not been an explicit focus of food policy, so it is encouraging that the Scottish Government's food and drink policy 'Towards a Good Food Nation' [54] makes universal access to good affordable food one of its goals.

In earlier sections of our report we lay out steps which we believe need to be taken to reduce and eradicate food insecurity in Scotland. We have been clear throughout that the causes of food insecurity and hunger are not, primarily, about a lack of food but a lack of money.

In this final section, we lay out proposals to develop the community food sector to provide a more dignified and joined-up response to food insecurity, including the provision of food in an emergency.

The community food sector has grown consistently over the last few decades with the backing of local and national government dating back to the Scottish Diet Action Plan (1996). Historically, the sector has undertaken a wide range of activities such as: bulk buying fruit and vegetables and retailing at cost; running fresh food stalls in hospitals; running classes on healthy eating and cooking; growing food; and running community shops and cafes.

Traditionally focused on the production and supply of ethical food (locally sourced and environmentally grown) a growing number of organisations have, in recent years, also focused on working alongside those experiencing food insecurity. Some areas of activity such as community growing and community cafes have expanded significantly in recent years. Alongside these, new social enterprises have emerged, such as Social Bite (a cafe which offers employment opportunities for people who are homeless) and community supported bakeries.

5.1 Community Food Hubs

Foodbanks have emerged in Scotland (and elsewhere in the UK) in large measure as a result of falling income for a growing number of people on benefits and in low-paid and insecure employment. A significant number have developed and adapted since their inception, becoming much more fully community organisations and connecting effectively with those providing a wider range of services and activities. We are keen to actively promote this progression from emergency food provider to agencies that are more fully integrated into the local communities they serve.

Bridging the Gap, [55] Woodlands Community Garden [56] and Lanarkshire Community Food and Health Partnership [57] are all excellent examples of the broader approach which we consider to be essential. They have all been in development over many years, illustrative that this model is not new but now needs to be given increased momentum and opportunity to develop. At an international level, and in a policy context where foodbanks have become largely integrated into the welfare system, the pioneering work of The Stop (Toronto, Canada) demonstrates the potential long-term impact of this approach. [58]

The Scottish Government can encourage this movement through the funding that it provides, including through the Fair Food Fund, to emergency food providers. Through the funding of organisations over a number of years, it should encourage the establishment and development of local partnerships with community anchor organisations and with the community food sector. There is the potential for this movement to be supported by a range of other funders and we would strongly advocate a shared approach across the public and charitable sector funding. Any organisation funded to tackle food poverty through the Scottish Government must demonstrate how its approach promotes dignity and, for emergency providers, how they seek to make the transition from emergency response to dignified provision integrated within wider community settings.

Our experience is that food helps to create community and that we need to be supporting communities to create food. There are four dimensions to this activity: growing, cooking, eating, and sharing (including distribution). Alongside this should sit a commitment to food justice. It is unlikely that any one organisation will be able to provide all of these elements, further emphasising the requirement for effective collaboration and partnership. We also believe that the effectiveness and sustainability of any approach will be dependent upon the extent to which people experiencing food insecurity and hunger are directly involved in the development and delivery of these innovative approaches.

Our ambition is to see a decline in stand-alone emergency food provision and an increase in community food hubs. These hubs will necessarily take different shapes in different communities. Potential partners will include community theatres, playgroups, health centres, faith groups and community centres alongside community cafes, community gardens and emergency food providers. A coherent and ambitious funding strategy, alongside some support infrastructure, can help to promote and drive this shift.

Community Food Hub: "Come Dine With Us"

'Come Dine With Us' began when a member of Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission spoke of the isolation and desperation that was felt most acutely in the evenings, when hunger and loneliness can be at their most harmful. Building on the experience and success of Bridging the Gap's 'Big Thursday' drop-in a three course meal was prepared and served for 66 local residents in the Gorbals by 11 local volunteers supported by five staff, with two musicians providing a lively social atmosphere. Refreshments were provided by a local business. Conversation and connections were sparked around the tables as well as a hearty meal provided in an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance and warmth. The meal is now occurring on a regular basis.

5.2 Community Food Plans

Local authorities have a key role in joining up actions on food, along with partners in the NHS, the community sector and those with direct experience of food insecurity. While local authorities have little control over the major economic influences on household food security and are facing acute budget cuts, they can and do make a difference at a local level. There is the potential for the production of community food plans which should be developed collaboratively and responsive to the local context. These should be deliberately light touch, enabling and based upon a number of core values and approaches, including:

  • Asset-based community development - using people's skills, raising aspirations
  • Healthy, sustainable and fair food, not just any food
  • Resource-sharing (buildings, staff, knowhow)
  • Dignity and inclusiveness
  • Additionality: any new national resources to add to local spend, not replace it
  • People with lived experience of food poverty have to be involved in developing and monitoring the plans.

Plans can be linked to the new National Performance Framework which will take account of the Sustainable Development Goals. They will also take account of other government policies such as the 'Good Food Nation' Act and wider poverty reduction measures.

5.3 Fair Food Fund

The development of this approach has to be a long-term investment over 10-15 years, not just a short-term initiative. There will be multiple benefits in terms of improved nutrition and health, and greater community resilience. However, these will take time.

We welcome the Scottish Government's continued support of the Fair Food Fund, building upon the Emergency Food Fund established in the last Parliament. However, this dedicated fund is relatively modest (£1 million per year) given the scale of the challenge. Alongside the Fair Food Fund, efforts need to be made to better coordinate public sector funding to support the building of a community food movement and this work needs to be done alongside other grant making and social enterprise bodies. It is the responsibility of all partners to work effectively together to realise this vision. The Independent Working Group, should it continue beyond the publication of this report, could be a key vehicle for strengthening these partnerships.

Throughout our report we have advocated the necessity to draw on the wisdom and expertise of people experiencing food insecurity. We would consider it essential that those who know about food insecurity through direct experience help to inform the grant making process.


17. The social enterprise and community sector should continue the development of community food hubs across Scotland, supported by the recently expanded Fair Food Fund.

18. The Scottish Government, assisted by the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty, should work with non-government donors to increase the capacity of funding and expertise to tackle food insecurity.

19. Local authorities should work with others including those with lived experience of food poverty to develop and implement Community Food Plans, of which a central element should be reducing food insecurity and hunger.


Email: Graeme MacLennan

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