Summary of survey responses
Information about organisations
The following sections summarise responses to questions asked about each organisation providing free or subsidised food.
The provision of free and subsidised food
Among the 559 organisations that stated that they provided free or subsidised food:
- 512 reported providing free food (92%).
- 161 reported providing subsidised food (29%).
Of these, 114 organisations were providing both free and subsidised food (20%).
Type of organisation
Figure 1 presents an overview of the types of organisations who reported providing free or subsidised food. Just under half of organisations were charities (47%), and around a quarter were community groups (26%) or faith organisations (25%).
A fifth of organisations (17%) provided a free-text response to this question. The majority of free-text responses provided further details of their organisation remit or aims, or additional organisation types not covered by the multiple choice options presented. A summary of the additional organisations reported in the free-text responses is presented in Table 2.
|Type of organisation||Number of organisations|
|School, nursery or out-of-school/breakfast club||9|
|Housing association or social housing landlord||8|
|Local authority run team or service||8|
|Community café, soup kitchen or meal provider||7|
|Church or Christian charity||5|
|Residential drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation||3|
|Youth organisation or project||2|
|Community food growing or gardening||2|
|Mental health service||1|
|University students union||1|
Participation in coordinating networks
Of the 544 responses to this question, a third of organisations (33%) reported that they participate in a coordinating network. As summarised in Table 3, a wide variety of networks were described, including regional/city community food networks, national coordinating or campaign groups, local poverty action groups, local authority networks and NHS/Health and Social Care Partnership initiatives. Some organisations mentioned multiple networks that they participate in. Some networks were mentioned by several organisations, with 103 unique coordinating networks were referenced. The "Other" categories included church coordinating groups and forums tackling homelessness.
|Type of coordinating group||Number of organisations|
|Regional/community food networks||35|
|National coordinating/campaign groups||14|
|Local poverty action groups||23|
|Local authority networks||15|
|NHS/ Health and Social Care Partnership initiatives||8|
Inward referral practices
The survey asked whether any inward referral was required to enable people to access free or subsidised food from their organisation. The majority of organisations providing free or subsidised food reported that people could receive free or subsidised food without advance inward referral (70%). Just over a third of organisations reported that an advance inward referral was required from an external organisation (35%) and just under a quarter reported that people could refer themselves or be referred by a family member or friend (26%). Figure 2 provides an overview. Some organisations reported operating more than one of these inward referral routes.
Around a fifth of organisations provided a free-text response for this question. These responses identified several themes:
- Restrictions on the availability of food to specific target groups, such as those using their services. This was particularly the case for residential organisations and children's activities.
- Highlighting that although a referral process or other access restriction may normally be in place, staff and volunteers are flexible about taking self-referrals and providing food directly to people based on trust or obvious crisis.
- Re-iterating that referrals were not required.
Inward referring organisations
Among the organisations that reported that they require an advance inward referral from an external organisation, a variety of referring organisations were reported (see Figure 3). The most common inward referring organisations reported were social work, health services and community organisations.
Just under a quarter of organisations provided a free-text response to this question. These free-text responses reported several referring organisations not covered by the presented options including councils (particularly from staff processing Scottish Welfare Fund applications), the Citizens Advice Bureau, addiction support services, the police, the NHS, health and social care professionals, criminal justice practitioners, Women's Aid, other local charities, and elected representatives.
Restrictions to access
From 533 organisations that answered this question, 8 in 10 organisations (78%) reported no restrictions on who could access food applied (in addition to any inward referral practice in place).
Among the 117 organisations that did have further access criteria, the most common restrictions reported related to:
- Geographic location or postcode.
- Targeting support at a particular group such as older people, women, children, families, young people, people with addictions, homeless people or asylum seekers.
- Conditions of attendees. For example, recovery cafes reported that free or subsidised food is available to everyone but on the condition that attendees are not intoxicated when visiting the venue.
50 organisations that reported that they had no further restrictions to access provided further information in the free-text box, which included highlighting that food would be provided to anyone who presented as needing food even if they did not fit referral or usual service access criteria.
Other activities or services provided
Three quarters of organisations (78%) provided details about other services or activities that they offer alongside the provision of free or subsidised food. These varied greatly, based on the venue and its primary purpose, and included situations where organisations reported working in partnership with another organisation that is providing the service. Figure 4 presents an overview of the key themes in responses to this question. Of the 411 organisations that reported offering additional activities and services, almost a third reported that they provide social activities and group events (31%) and around third reported offering advice and support (30%). Only a small minority of organisations reported offering other services provided Health services (2%) or Homelessness support (2%).
Information about provision at venues
The following sections summarise responses to questions asked about each venue through which organisations are providing free or subsidised food.
How food is made available
Almost half of all venues reported providing a cooked meal that is eaten at the venue (46%) and just over one third reported providing a food parcel that is prepared by the organisation and collected at the venue (34%). Only 2% of venues reported providing a cooked meal that was then delivered to the person at their home. Figure 5 provides an overview.
Organisations selected the "Other" option with reference to a third of venues and so were invited to provide a free-text response. These responses included:
- Venues providing food parcels with some element of choice in the provision by, for example, encouraging people to swap items, choose food parcel contents, providing "shopping lists" from which people can choose items from, food sharing fridges, surplus food sold at low cost, and meal kits to cook at home. Some responses mentioned catering for allergies, taste and need.
- Venues providing more informal opportunities to collect food as part of other services. These additional services included youth services, family support projects, nurseries and after school care services and community centres.
- Venues keeping a supply of emergency food parcels from a local food bank, widening access to emergency food aid. Other organisations reported having an emergency food cupboard stocked with ambient food for people to access when required.
- The range of settings providing free or subsidised food to take home included community cafes, churches, community centres, schools and prisons. Provision included redistribution of donated and surplus food, including community freezers, sharing shelves, collection points in community buildings and community fridges. A number of organisations stated plans or intentions to establish a community pantry or fridge in the near future.
- Some organisations also highlighted provision of fresh food, through access to donated fresh and garden produce, fresh fruit and vegetables in public areas for people to take what they need and vouchers for fruit barras.
- Some organisations were delivering food to the homes of individuals unable to get to a venue, and some to partner organisations with more accessibility and to satellite locations in rural areas. Some were taking food out as part of homeless support work.
- One organisation referenced using a food sharing app.
Types of food available through food parcels
Organisations providing food parcels were asked to report the types of food they provide. The majority of venues providing food parcels were providing ambient food (98%). Less than half of venues providing food parcels were providing fresh food (45%) and one fifth (19%) were providing frozen food (see Figure 6).
Where the "Other" option was selected in response to this question, organisations were invited to provide a free-text response. Responses included comments about "add-on" food provision such as fresh bread or fruit and vegetables when available, vouchers for various shops and supermarkets and adapting food provided if people did not have access to adequate cooking facilities.
Typical opening hours
Figure 7 shows an overview of food availability by day of the week across all venues. Food was provided by similar proportions of venues on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and Friday (52%, 54%, 50% and 55% and 53% respectively) while significantly fewer venues reported providing food on Saturday (13%) and Sunday (11%).
Onward referral practices
The survey asked whether venues referred (support someone to access) and/or signposted (provide information about) people to the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF), advice providers or support providers.
Advice providers could include money, welfare rights and legal advice services with support ranging from providing information, explanations and signposting to casework and advocacy. Other support provider agencies could include statutory services as well as other community and support organisations.
As shown in Figure 8, organisations reported just under a quarter of venues were referring people to the SWFwhile 43% were signposting to the SWF. For a fifth of venues, respondents were unsure whether they refer or signpost to the SWF.
Slightly more venues were referring (36%) and signposting (62%) to advice providers. For over a tenth of venues, respondents were unsure whether they refer or signpost to advice providers.
Over a third of venues were referring and almost two thirds were signposting to other support providers. For over a tenth of venues, respondents were unsure whether they refer or signpost to other support providers.
Additional information about onward referrals
Respondents were presented with a free-text box to provide any additional information about their onward referral practices. 159 responses were provided to this question. Responses can be summarised into the following themes:
- Requests for more information about the SWF.
- Reports that their venue has an established support and/or referral service in place, with dedicated legal and money advisors, support workers, advocates and peer support mentioned.
- Mentioned plans or aspirations to establish further support services.
- Reported varying levels of staff and organisational capacity, knowledge and skills to assist people with access to other services.