This report sets out evidence and recommendations from the first six months' work of the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty.
There is a good deal more work to be done by the Group - both collectively, and with the Scottish Government - to understand the pattern of food poverty and food insecurity in Scotland and to sharpen the measures proposed to tackle this decisively over the next decade.
However, action is needed now, and our recommendations focus on reducing and removing the need for foodbanks in the lifetime of the current Parliament and of transitioning to other models involving increasing income and developing community food initiatives. This is in line with Scotland's commitment to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 2.1:
By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.
We recognise that many of the levers required to tackle food insecurity do not lie with the Scottish Government. Nonetheless, we would encourage it to do all within its powers to address the problems that we have outlined and the solutions that we advocate.
These recommendations are founded on the principles of dignity and inclusion. People with lived experience of food poverty must be at the heart of the change, and we must tackle food poverty in a way which enhances dignity and embodies respect.
We propose that our approach to food poverty and food insecurity in Scotland is based on a 'right to food' which is underpinned by law. In a wealthy 21 st century nation, citizens should not have to rely on charity or on surplus food to feed themselves and their families.
We propose that food insecurity is measured more systematically in Scotland, as it is in many other countries, so that we can focus action more effectively and measure results over time.
We recognise that food poverty is a symptom of wider poverty and disadvantage, which in turn is embedded in the way we organise our society and our economy. We recommend implementing more widely the Living Wage as defined by the Living Wage Foundation, together with better working conditions and a reduction in exploitative zero-hours contracts. We also propose that the Scottish Government uses its new powers to fund an increase in the value of social security benefits, specifically Child Benefit.
We want to see a reduction in the level of delays and punitive sanctions in the social security system, and measures to reduce other household costs including rent, energy and transport.
The Scottish Welfare Fund has provided an additional safety net for tens of thousands of households in the last two years, and we recommend this as the first point of call for people with an income crisis which leaves them unable to afford food.
Finally, we see a role for a stronger community food sector, which can embed the provision of food aid in a wider range of community activities and services, and encourage local authorities to work with others to develop community food plans.
In the report, we make a number of recommendations to others. However, we are also clear that success is dependent upon everyone taking up the challenge. So, amongst the commitments that we have made are:
i. In our work we will seek to develop and deliver dignified responses to food insecurity and food poverty.
ii. We will continue to challenge the stigma of poverty and raise awareness of the structural causes of food insecurity.
iii. We commit to gathering, collating, analysing and sharing evidence of problems within social security delivery that are creating or exacerbating food insecurity and to constructively engage with social security delivery agencies to address those problems.
Email: Graeme MacLennan