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.

8 Monitoring Food Aid Provision and the Impact of Welfare Reform on Food Aid

8.1 The aim of this section is to discuss whether (and how) the current and future monitoring systems could capture (1) the scale and dynamics of food aid provision across Scotland; and (2) the impacts of welfare reform on the demand for, and provision of, food aid in Scotland.

Monitoring scale and dynamics of food aid provision in Scotland

8.2 On the basis of our interviews, it is suggested that monitoring the scale and dynamics of food aid provision nationally would be somewhat challenging and not fully precise, but nonetheless possible.

8.3 The findings suggest that it is likely that all food parcels providers in Scotland record the number of parcels distributed every month, and some also record the client's household size. Therefore, it would be possible to conduct a Scotland-wide mapping exercise akin to the one reported here. Such a study would provide a list of food parcel providers, the size of their provision and relevant contact details. The data would ideally need to be updated on a regular basis.

8.4 Where a provider does not record client's household size, an approximate multiplier could be applied in order to arrive at the total number of people provided with aid. Trussell Trust statistics from Glasgow SE Foodbank show that the ratio for their client base is approximately 1 food parcel = 2 persons supported.

8.5 One limitation that would need to be considered is how to determine what proportion of the client base are one-off users, and what proportion are repeat users. While the Trussell Trust collects such information, the findings suggest that among other food parcel providers (and definitely among 'soup kitchens') this is rare. As Trussell Trust foodbanks tend to cater for a somewhat different clientele than other food parcel providers, it would not be appropriate to extrapolate the Trust's statistics regarding repeat users onto the whole cohort of food aid beneficiaries in Scotland.

8.6 With regards to free meals provided by 'soup kitchens' and similar outlets, monitoring the demand and dynamics of provision should also be possible. The findings suggest that the vast majority (if not all) 'soup kitchens' record the number of meals they provide. The difficulties that were encountered during fieldwork suggest, however, that it may be more difficult to map all 'soup kitchens' than to map all food parcel providers. It would also again be very problematic to establish precisely the proportion of 'repeat users', due to the lack of client monitoring data. Any such attempt would need to rely on 'soup kitchen' managers' own estimate.

Monitoring users of food aid

8.7 The findings from the interviews suggest that it would not be possible to develop a Scotland-wide demographic profile of the entire food aid client base. The main reason being that many food aid providers do not have a need to collect this kind of information, have reservations about being intrusive or do not have means to record it.

Monitoring the impact of welfare reform on food aid

8.8 As should be clear from the discussion in the previous section on the Scotland-wide representativeness of the Trussell Trust's data, the findings suggest that this data is a good indicator of general provision and demand trends experienced by other providers of food parcels. This means that there is not much need to go beyond Trussell Trust data, unless more precise data is required about the impact of welfare reform on clients of non-Trussell Trust foodbanks. Specifically, there is a suggestion in the findings that the precision of Trussell Trust data may not be fully satisfactory when applied to a slightly different client base (although not to the point where Trussell Trust data would be misleading).

8.9 However, the findings suggest that it would be difficult to add to the monitoring already undertaken by the Trussell Trust, both in terms of the volume of monitoring and its depth. Crucially, it would be challenging to achieve a necessary 'buy-in' from food parcel providers, mainly because (1) expanding record-keeping would put additional burden on them; and (2) having this information would be of no benefit to them in their operations.

8.10 What seems realistic and achievable would be to conduct an annual or twice-yearly 'snapshot' survey of clients from a sample of selected 'key players' in food parcel provision. Such selected providers could ask their clients a single question about the reason for referral (or self-referral) using the set of answers employed by the Trussell Trust for the sake of standardisation. To minimise the burden on food parcel providers, the survey could run for one week. Results from non-Trussell Trust providers could then be merged and compared with results from Trussell Trust foodbanks (who undertake such monitoring anyway). It is suggested that some form of incentive might need to be offered to non-Trussell Trust foodbanks by those driving the exercise.

8.11 In order to acquire a more in-depth understanding of the impact of welfare reform on demand for food parcels (e.g. exactly which parts of the reform lie behind the rise in demand) a small study composed of focus groups / interviews with beneficiaries of food parcel aid and with food parcel providers could be carried out. This could run alongside the 'snapshot' survey.

8.12 With regards to monitoring the impact of welfare reform on demand for meals in 'soup kitchens', for practical reasons, it is believed to be less feasible to administer a survey analogous to the one above. Further enquiries would need to be made with 'soup kitchens' and day centres to scope how realistic it would be. However, what would certainly be feasible is carrying out interviews with managers of 'soup kitchens' who are likely to have an insight into the role that welfare reform plays in driving demand for their services.

8.13 On the basis of the findings, monitoring of the impact of welfare reform on demand for food aid (both food parcels and meals) would need to be thoughtful with regards to the locations selected. Specifically, places such as Dundee and Stirling are more representative of the rest of Scotland than Glasgow City. Glasgow City has a considerable population of destitute migrants (mainly unsuccessful asylum seekers) and, therefore, what happens to this group has an influence on the Glasgow-wide picture, but is not reflective of other places. For example, future UK Government policies may result in a smaller number of non-EU migrants being allowed into the UK, or in a smaller proportion of asylum seekers being successful with claims to remain. Such developments would have a bearing on the size of the population of destitute migrants. What this means is that findings from Glasgow cannot be extrapolated to other locations. However, because of its scale, the City should be included in any future study.


Email: Justine Geyer

Back to top