Overview of Food Aid Provision in Scotland

This reports on a small-scale study of the food aid landscape in Scotland which mapped food parcel services and 'soup kithen' providers across eight locations in Scotland. Insights into their operations, monitoring systems and client base are presented alongside an exploration of

the potential for monitoring scale and demand and the extent to which figures published by the Trussell Trust are representative of the Scotland wide situation.

6 Inverness, Fort William, Kirriemuir, Forfar, Stirling and Falkirk

Sporadic food aid

6.1 Eight food parcel providers were identified in Inverness, Fort William, Angus (Kirriemuir/Forfar), Stirling and Falkirk. Of these, four were Trussell Trust foodbanks, three were Salvation Army and one was a Crisis foodbank. Seven of the eight food parcel providers are faith based. Food aid in these areas was found to be less diverse, more sporadic (i.e. less concentrated and more isolated) than in Dundee and Glasgow.

6.2 Details of the eight providers are presented in Table 4. To ensure interviewee confidentiality, these more sporadic food providers are not discussed in terms of individual area, but rather as a collective. They were found to exhibit similarities, therefore, collating information better reflects the general evolution of food aid in areas of Scotland where it is less prevalent.

6.3 Additional informal food aid providers were identified in the Kirriemuir area through interviews. These were two 'soup kitchens' (speculatively one in Montrose, which only runs in the winter, and another in Forfar which operates one day a week), however, no further concrete detailed information could be found when these providers were followed up. There was also a suggestion that a weekly 'soup kitchen' was operating in Inverness, this could not be confirmed either. It is suggestive, therefore, that there may be several other small, informal and irregular food aid providers in these areas.

Trussell Trust foodbanks

6.4 As Table 4 illustrates, the food aid available in less populous areas of Scotland is dominated by foodbanks, compared to larger towns like Stirling and Falkirk, where hot meals and food parcels are available regularly through Salvation Army centres. Respondents reported an overlap in clientele within the Stirling/Falkirk region, indicating that the same clients are using both the Salvation Army centres and the foodbanks (the opposite of the findings in Glasgow and Dundee where different types of clients accessed Salvation Army centres compared to foodbanks).

6.5 The majority of food aid providers in Inverness, Angus and Falkirk are Trussell Trust foodbanks, thus they are dominant within the foodbanking community and in these areas. Although they are a formal food aid provider, the distinct lack of informal food provision (especially in Inverness and Angus) would indicate that they are central to this food aid landscape.

6.6 Due to the size of Trussell Trust foodbanks in Inverness, Angus and Falkirk, the statistics published and collected by the Trust can be considered indicative of what is happening with respect to food aid in these locations. One comment reflects this, suggesting that although "they are just numbers, they actually say a lot about what is going on in people's lives out there". Another respondent suggested that, "I think what they record is pretty good given what others are doing or not doing". The lack of informal providers in these areas generally suggests that the food aid landscape is likely to continue to develop, whether informally or through the formal Trussell Trust system.

Table 4: Food aid providers in Inverness, Fort William, Kirriemuir, Forfar, Stirling and Falkirk

Organisation Service Food parcels Meals No. of parcels per month Average no. of meals per month Address Postcode
Trussell Trust/Blythswood Highland Foodbank Food parcel 300+ Highland Deephaven, Evanton, Ross-shire IV16 9XJ
Trussell Trust Lochaber Foodbank Food parcel DNA DNA
Angus Foodbank Food parcel 60 Strathmore Christian Fellowship, Bridges Coffee House, 42 Bank St, Kirriemuir DD8 4BG
Falkirk Foodbank Food parcel 317+ Unit 1 Tamfourhill Industrial Estate, Tamfourhill Ave, Falkirk FK1 4RT
The Salvation Army The Salvation Army, Forfar Food parcel 35 Chapel St, Forfar, Angus DD8 2AB
The Salvation Army, Stirling Ad hoc food parcels Soup kitchen 12 1200+ 19 Drip Rd, Stirling FK8 1RA
The Salvation Army, Falkirk Ad hoc food parcels Soup kitchen 80 DNA Worship & Community Centre, 1 Woodside Court, Falkirk FK1 5AN
Start Up Stirling Start Up Stirling Food parcel 32+ STEP, Unit 37, John Player Building, Stirling Enterprise Park, Stirling FK7 7RP

DNA - Data not available

Influence of the Trussell Trust

6.7 The benefits of being associated with the Trussell Trust, and the support the organisation offers, are considered to be important to successful foodbanking. One project manager at a Trussell Trust foodbank suggested that the Trussell Trust were invaluable. One interviewee stated, "I would defy anybody to set up an independent foodbank [and] to be as far ahead as we are now...It cost us £1,500 to begin with and we've had about £8,500 back from Tesco". In terms of guidance, experience and leadership, the Trussell Trust model for these foodbanks is seen as something laudable, another respondent sees it as "an excellent model, very well done...I wouldn't know where to start, where to fix this. I suspect there has always been people who needed food, it is just they haven't known where to go to get it, or it hasn't been available".

6.8 As a result of the combination of the Trussell Trust model, increased media awareness and assertive community engagement, these areas have an effective response to food aid needs. One respondent from a sporadic foodbank commented:

"I find it quite sad to think that it [Trussell Trust foodbank] is needed in the first place, there are so many foodbanks across the UK. But you also have to celebrate the fact that communities are coming together and want to do something about the need that they see, that they are being proactive about it and kind of taking ownership of it, which is really exciting... Why shouldn't every town have one? The vision should be that it (foodbanking) is here for the long run."

Operations, supply sources and changes in demand


6.9 Four of the foodbanks in Table 4 have been established within the last year, however, Inverness has had a foodbank since 2005, originally established by Blythswood which now partners with the Trussell Trust. These new foodbank figures are indicative in themselves of an increase in demand for food aid. Demand is increasing generally, and this has been reflected through interviewee comments. The Salvation Army have seen increases in the numbers of people they are feeding, "the last two years [numbers] have increased by two thirds". The newly established foodbanks are distributing a significant amount of food. One of the Trussell Trust banks has "sent enough food out to feed one person three meals a day and snacks for almost 19 years" since they began operating in late 2012.

6.10 Respondents thought that changes in demand over the last year have typically been driven by changes in benefits and welfare reform policies. Concomitant to the rise in demand, food aid providers are noticing different, new clientele accessing their services in response to welfare changes. One respondent commented, "people who have never had problems before are coming". For one foodbank, the top three reasons for referrals are currently benefit delay, benefit change and low income. There is uncertainty in when welfare recipients will receive money and how much they will be getting. Interviewees also reflected on the effect of the 'bedroom tax', an increase in sanctions and increased referrals from the Scottish Welfare Fund. One respondent reflected on the flexibility of food parcel provision and how they can offer assistance and support to those awaiting a decision on benefit change.

"We'll undertake to feed the people until the decision is made. If the decision goes against the person and they don't get their benefits back, then unfortunately we still have to call a halt to it (food provision), we are only providing emergency food, we can't do long term sustainability."

6.11 Another interviewee commented that "obviously welfare reforms are a big thing at the moment, but whatever the situation, people fall into crisis every day for different reasons and food provision is always going to be needed". Although other types of crises are experienced by those who receive food aid, welfare reforms appear to be the current dominant reason for increased demand for food provision from sporadic food aid providers.


6.12 The foodbanks service the local community and provide food parcels directly from their premises; however, at least three provide delivery options. Some of the foodbanks deliver the food themselves, with foodbanks covering wider areas ranging from 112 to 850 square miles. Others provide emergency food parcels for redistribution through agencies in rural areas. As one respondent stated,

"It is a balancing is completely volunteer run and there are particular operational challenges for these foodbanks which would not be experienced to the same extent by a city centre foodbank. ………. Since October 2012 we've fed 710 people, which is small peanuts compared to some of the major cities, but it is still a large amount for our rural area...850 square miles...Being a rural foodbank has its own difficulties in getting the food out."

6.13 One of the foodbanks is actively working to create more defined partnerships with community organisations across their area, encouraging the development of additional foodbank projects. Logistics are challenging, as one respondent stated, "a foodbank is about a lot more than handing out food...and there are people who are not served effectively".

6.14 Several of these foodbanks have received support with their operations. Deliveries and logistics for one foodbank were made less complicated as they were "given a brand new Transit van by a local man back in March...the council have given us another 1800 square foot storage unit" for which they pay a "peppercorn rent". Another foodbank discussed the difficulties experienced in finding premises and how they "didn't think it would be good stewardship for a charity to be spending that amount (£17k, £35k)[19] on renting a property". A company based in the area gave them access to one of their vacant properties to use for the foodbank, and at a heavily reduced rental rate. They also received help from local housing associations when they were getting the premises set up and ready to operate.

Supply Sources

6.15 Much of the supply for the food aid providers again comes from the local community, incorporating both supermarket collections and donations from individuals (motivated by religious and non-religious beliefs). In some areas it is notable that "most of the food comes from churches". For a number of the foodbanks there are no supply worries.

"No supply problems...companies and schools do collections and bring up the food to us."

"When we started this I thought the hard job would be getting donations of food, but the hard job initially was getting rid of it...people were incredibly generous. [With our] supermarket collections...we've had folk coming in who'll take a shopping list from us and leave a trolley full of food with us on the way out."

6.16 However, other food aid providers have noticed that they have experienced a slight decline in donations since the expansion of foodbanks in their area.

6.17 One of the foodbanks chooses to receive perishable rather than just non-perishable goods. They are supplied by local supermarkets and on the day of the interview they had "280 punnets of strawberries from Asda, but we got rid of every one of them to the Salvation Army, homeless hostels...we've had 600 trays of sliced sausage...we give them as an extra". As every foodbank is an independent charity, there is apparently some flexibility and scope for them to offer and operate additional services, such as distributing perishable as well as non-perishable goods (as long as it does not violate the terms of the franchise).

Monitoring systems and scope for their expansion

6.18 Both the formal and informal food aid providers agreed that welfare reform and changes in benefits were driving change in the demand for food aid. However, monitoring these causes effectively was seen to be potentially problematic. One respondent suggested that going into more specific detail about circumstances would be "difficult, there are so many things, it is a minefield". An interviewee from a Trussell Trust foodbank suggested that the responsibility for collecting this sort of information should rest with those who distribute the vouchers to the individuals.

"It is really their job to know what sort of a crisis it is...we can talk about numbers, the wider crisis type, but I think for us as a foodbank it probably would get a bit too personal. I think it would be easier for us to keep it kind of wider categories at the moment."

6.19 It was felt that "it would be more challenging for smaller [food aid providers]...drop ins" in terms of how much detailed information they are able to collect. The informal, non-referral food aid providers would not necessarily have anyone responsible for referring the clients to the services available in the first place. Overall, it would appear that incorporating detailed monitoring on the impacts of welfare reform on food aid providers would be a complicated and complex process.


Email: Justine Geyer

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