2 Introduction: The Growth of Food Aid in the UK and Scotland
2.1 The scale of food aid provision across the UK has increased exponentially in recent years. A recent report compiled by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty, entitled 'Walking the Breadline', estimates that more than half a million people are now relying on food aid in the UK. Reflecting on a study carried out by Tesco, The Telegraph reported that in the UK - "an estimated 18% of the country were forced to skip meals, ask friends or family for food, rely on a foodbank or go without so their kids could eat in the last year".
2.2 The vanguard response to food poverty in the UK has been led by the Trussell Trust, a self-defined 'social franchise' established in 2004, which partners with churches throughout the country to set up foodbanks. Their vision is to provide a "foodbank in every community" and they are currently represented in all four countries within the UK.
2.3 Figures published by the Trussell Trust indicate a sharply increasing level of demand for food aid in Scotland and other UK regions. In 2009, there was one Trussell Trust foodbank operating in Scotland. By October 2013, this had increased to 42 established and 17 in development. The Trussell Trust themselves suggest that, in order to fully address the food aid problem in the UK, 750-1,000 foodbanks would be required. As of October 2013, there are around 400 Trussell Trust foodbanks across the UK. The number of foodbanks not affiliated to the Trust is unknown.
2.4 Recipients of food parcels have to be referred to a Trussell Trust foodbank by a 'care professional' who is working with them. Recipients can be given up to three food parcels; where they might need a fourth, or more, the care professional is required to make special arrangements with the foodbank.
2.5 In terms of the number of people fed by Trussell Trust foodbanks in Scotland, statistics published by the network reveal that in 2011/12 three of the Scottish foodbanks provided emergency food relief to 5,726 individuals. Over 2012/13, 11 new Scottish Trussell Trust foodbanks opened and together the 14 foodbanks provided emergency food to 14,318 men, women and children. Between April and September 2013, 23,073 people in Scotland were referred to the Trussell Trust, comprising 16,465 adults and 6,608 children. Across the UK, the Trust has seen a two-fold increase in the number of foodbanks launched between October 2012 to October 2013, but has seen a three-fold increase in numbers of people given emergency food.
2.6 The Trussell Trust collects statistics on the reason for referral. These figures provide insight into the role played by changes in the welfare system in stimulating the demand for emergency food parcels. For example, the proportion of clients who used a Trussell Trust foodbank due to a benefit change increased from 10% in 2011/12 to 19% between April-September 2013. More than four in ten (43%) clients who received help during April-June 2012 were referred to Trussell Trust foodbanks due to problems with benefits; this had risen to 52% during April-June 2013 when welfare reforms such as the 'spare bedroom subsidy' (commonly known as the 'bedroom tax') came into life.
2.7 Food aid is given out in many different forms and by a range of third sector organisations. These other sources include:
- Local foodbanks not affiliated to the Trussell Trust
- Charities providing food to venues such as hostels, day centres, breakfast clubs and community cafes
- Charities redistributing food from food manufacturers/retailers that would otherwise go to waste, e.g. FareShare.
2.8 Data from other food aid providers is not publicised in the same way as that from the Trussell Trust leading to uncertainty about the scale of provision and the dynamics of demand with respect to the wider food aid landscape.
Email: Justine Geyer
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