Tackling household food insecurity is a policy priority in Scotland, and is aligned with the commitment to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
There are a range of coping mechanisms that people who are struggling to afford food adopt, seeking support from organisations responding to food insecurity is one of these. By better understanding the landscape of organisations responding to food insecurity, the Scottish Government can more effectively promote opportunities to tackle the root causes of income crisis and support coordinated and dignified responses to food insecurity.
Research aims and objectives
Between June and September 2019, research commissioned by the Scottish Government was carried out to provide a snapshot of where and how organisations are responding to food insecurity in Scotland. The aim was to gain a better understanding of the nature, scale and operating models of organisations responding to food insecurity and of the networks that support them. The purpose of this research is to inform policy and to better support organisations and individuals through, for instance, the dissemination of information about money advice and support.
This research provides a snapshot of organisations responding to food insecurity across Scotland through the provision of free or subsidised food. A survey was disseminated online, by telephone and through relevant mailing lists in order to gather information directly from organisations about the location, type, frequency and accessibility of their food provision. Further desk-based research was completed to record publicly-available information about organisations who had not responded to the survey in order to provide a more complete overview.
- This research identified 744 organisations responding to food insecurity through the provision of free or subsidised food at 1,026 venues across Scotland.
- A total of 612 survey responses were received. The survey responses provided primary data from 559 organisations about 767 venues across Scotland providing free or subsidised food.
- Desk-based research identified a further 185 organisations that were likely to be providing free or subsidised food as a response to food insecurity via 259 venues.
The survey data showed that:
- A variety of organisations in Scotland are responding to food insecurity through the provision of free or subsidised food, including third sector support organisations, charities, faith organisations, development trusts, food banks, food pantries, social enterprises, community cafes, shops and food growing projects. Responses were also received from a range of public sector organisations responding to food insecurity, including local authorities, health and social care providers, social landlords, schools, social services and criminal justice practitioners.
- Around a third of organisations reported participating in a coordinating network, including regional/community food networks, national coordinating/campaign groups, local poverty action groups, local authority networks and NHS initiatives.
- Nearly three quarters of organisations reported that people accessing their support could receive food without requiring an inward referral. Just over one third of organisations reported requiring an inward referral from an external organisation, and around a quarter reported that people could refer themselves or be referred by a family member or friend.
- The organisations requiring an inward referral from an external organisation reported a range of inward referrers, including social work, health services, community organisations, housing associations, family support organisations and mental health organisations.
- Over three quarters of organisations reported that they provide activities and services alongside the provision of food. Among these organisations, almost one third reported providing social activities, events and befriending, and almost another third reported providing advice and support (e.g. in relation to money and housing).
- Organisations reported various ways in which their venues are providing free or subsidised food. Almost half of all venues were providing a cooked meal eaten at the venue, and just over a third were providing pre-prepared food parcels.
- Among the organisations providing food parcels, almost all were providing ambient foods, just under half were providing fresh food and around a fifth were providing frozen food.
- Just over half of all venues were providing free or subsidised food on each weekday (Monday-Friday). However, there were markedly fewer venues providing food at weekends with just over a tenth providing food on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Over two fifths of venues were signposting (providing information about) to the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) and just under a quarter were referring (supporting someone to access) on to the SWF. For a fifth of venues, organisations were not sure about their onward referral practices in relation to the SWF.
- Just under two thirds of venues were signposting and around a third were referring to advice providers and other support providers.