Mapping Organisations Responding to Food Insecurity in Scotland

Research commissioned by the Scottish Government to provide a snapshot of where and how organisations are responding to food insecurity in Scotland.


The research was conducted between June and September 2019.

Data was initially obtained through desk-based research, followed by a survey (conducted online and via the telephone) to verify the desk-based research and collect more in-depth data on operations and activities. The initial desk-based research involved conducting online searches for each local authority, using several key words[40], and contacting local and national network organisations. Where identified, the names of relevant organisations and their contact information were recorded.

A link to an online survey was distributed to identified organisations via email, and was publicised through coordinating networks and social media. This initial dissemination was followed by a focussed eight week period where researchers telephoned and sent follow-up emails to encourage survey completion. Organisations were offered the opportunity to complete the survey via the phone or self-completion online. To gain a wider picture of coordination, the survey also asked about participation in any coordinating networks and for information about other organisations providing free or subsidised food in Scotland. Researchers continued to distribute and publicise the survey to any new organisations identified throughout the data collection period.

Finally, the survey data was integrated with desk-based research data. Organisations that did not provide a survey response but were identified through desk-based research are included in the dataset but are not included in the analyses of the data presented in this report.

Research scope

The focus of this research was to provide a snapshot of organisations providing free or subsidised food in Scotland. The term "subsidised food" used here refers to food which is sold below retail prices in order to be more affordable to people and households experiencing food insecurity. By focussing on the action of providing free or subsidised food, rather than organisation aims, it was hoped that the research would identify as many organisations as possible responding to food insecurity.

Several types of organisations were defined as targets for data collection. An overview is presented in Table 1. Note, however, that whilst this research did not target organisations marked as "not targeted" any survey responses received from these organisations were included in the data analyses if they reported providing free or subsidised food as a response to food insecurity. Any survey responses from organisations who reported that they did not provide free or subsidised food and/or reported that they were not responding to food insecurity were excluded from the data analyses.

Table 1: Types of organisations targeted and not targeted during data collection
Targeted Not targeted
Food banks Free school meals (nationwide scheme)
Community meals Meals on Wheels
School breakfasts Teas and coffees
Faith-based community meals Events and activities with small snacks (fruits, biscuits…)
Soup kitchens Paid for cooking courses and classes
Residential facilities for vulnerable adults where food is provided free (care homes, hospices, rehab facilities, homeless accommodation) Community cafes where the aim of providing food is to generate income for other activities
Lunch clubs for vulnerable adults (elderly, homeless) Organisations that are solely responding to food insecurity in the school holidays
Organisations that provide holiday clubs or activities with meals for children and families and wider support throughout the year
Community cafes where the food is affordable for vulnerable people
Cooking clubs and classes where food is eaten for free

Survey design

The survey questionnaire was designed by the contractor in consultation with the Scottish Government. The survey contained 15 questions (the survey questions are presented in Appendix A).

The survey included questions about the responding organisation:

  • organisation type
  • local authority
  • contact details
  • participation in food insecurity coordination groups

Some organisations provide free or subsidised food from multiple venues[41]. The survey was designed to allow input of details of up to five venues where food was provided by their organisation. The survey included questions about each venue[42]:

  • location and any additional contact details
  • how food is provided
  • type(s) of food provided
  • inward and onward referral practices
  • other activities or services provided

The survey was designed to take around 10-15 minutes to complete. Any follow-up contact by telephone or further email was non-intrusive. A GDPR compliant privacy notice was presented to survey respondents to cover the provision of any personal data (e.g. contact details).



Back to top