Fair Food Transformation Fund: independent review

Fair Food Transformation Fund (FFTF) was set up to support initiatives aimed at reducing food poverty and reliance on emergency food aid.

This document is part of a collection

1 Background and Context

The following chapter is divided into four sections: an overview of food insecurity in Scotland, the Scottish policy context surrounding food insecurity, the history of the FFTF and a summary of the methodology that underlies our review.

1.1 Food insecurity in Scotland

Food insecurity refers to an inability to access food in sufficient quantity or of adequate quality in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so.[5] The severity of food insecurity can vary between: worrying about accessing food, reducing the quality and quantity of food consumed and experiencing hunger.[6]

Food banks have become part of a range of services and interventions to address food insecurity. Food bank usage statistics are commonly used as an indication of wider food insecurity. Since the recession, food bank usage in the UK has risen significantly. Trussell Trust, the largest food bank provider in the UK, reported that they provided 170,625 food parcels in Scotland in 2017/18.[7]

Evidence from Canada shows that most food insecure households do not use food banks[8]. This suggests that the 170,625 parcels provided by the Trussell Trust in Scotland do not accurately reflect the number of people facing food insecurity. This underestimation of people who experience food insecurity is further evidenced by a recent survey by the GoWell partnership that looked at the pattern of food bank use among people living in deprived areas of Glasgow. It found that 4% of respondents had used a food bank in the last year despite 18% of respondents reporting that they had difficulty paying for food. This research also highlighted social stigma and logistical challenges relating to food bank use – 4% of respondents stated that they did not use a food bank because they did not want to or could not access one.[9]

There is evidence to suggest that recent welfare reform has contributed to food bank usage. In April 2017, the Trussell Trust reported that areas where Universal Credit had been fully rolled out had a higher increase in food bank use than in the rest of the UK – 16.9% as opposed to 6.6%. This was partially attributed to the six week wait for the first Universal Credit payment and the resultant accumulation of debt and bills.[10]

Following an 18-month study of people referred to their services, the Trussell Trust published a report in June 2017 that found nearly 40% of people surveyed were waiting for a benefit payment, 66% had an unexpected drop in their income or rise in expenses and 16% had no income during the prior three months. The average income of households in the month before they were surveyed was around £320.[11] An increase in the cost of living is also likely to have contributed to an increase in food insecurity. Living cost increases affect lower income households disproportionately.[12]

1.2 The policy context

In response to a growing need to address food insecurity, Scottish Ministers established an Independent Short-Life Working Group on Food Poverty. This group reported back to Scottish Government in 2016 with their report “Dignity: Ending Hunger Together in Scotland”. The report set out the Group’s view that emergency food aid is not a long-term solution to food insecurity and that action should be taken to improve the income of those facing food insecurity and explore new ways to deliver community based food support. The report identified four principles that represent a dignified approach to addressing food insecurity. These principles are described below.

1 Involving people with direct experience of food insecurity in decision making

By fulfilling this principle, services are able to understand the causes of poverty and the choices people living in food poverty make. As a result, “effective solutions and strategies” can be developed. Examples of how this could be achieved include getting people with direct experience of food poverty involved in:

  • advising strategic working groups – for example, by becoming part of steering groups, committees or forums
  • every day running of local food centres – for example, by volunteering or becoming staff members
  • providing feedback about the project – for example, through boxes, informal chats, interviews, focus groups, or questionnaires

2 Recognising the social value of food ​

The Working Group’s report states that “projects which aim to build community around food often help to create the feeling of a place where people choose to go rather than have to”[13], and are therefore more dignified.

3 Providing opportunities to contribute

The Working Group states that a more dignified way of tackling food insecurity would be through providing “opportunities for individuals to volunteer in different roles, to share and learn new skills, to grow their own vegetables and to participate in local community life”[14]. They suggest this would provide a way of combating the stigma people can face around being perceived as a “scrounger” or “skiver”[15]. Putting this principle into practice could involve:

  • volunteering
  • formal training with a qualification
  • informal/formal skill learning and sharing

4 Leaving people with the power to choose

This principle was included by the Working Group as it was considered that those experiencing food poverty were often constrained in the extent to which they were able to choose the quality and type of food they ate. Examples of putting this principle into action could include:

  • the choice to contribute to the price of food
  • some degree of choice over what food is eaten
  • choice to eat healthily (fresh and healthy options available)
  • greater choice for people because their cooking/budgeting skills have improved

The Dignity Principles were accepted by Scottish Ministers as a guide for the projects and activities that the Scottish Government would support. It is within this context that the Fair Food Transformation Fund (FFTF) was established.

1.3 The Fair Food Transformation Fund

Between 2016 and 2018, the FFTF awarded grants to 34 community-based projects. These projects sought to “reduce reliance on emergency food aid by establishing more sustainable approaches to ensuring families can access healthy, nutritious food”.[16] The fund sought to address food insecurity by looking at both short-term (emergency food provision) and long-term (addressing the underlying reasons for food insecurity) responses to food insecurity. Fundamental to the FFTF is its support for projects to modify their services in order to place more emphasis on the dignity of individual participants. Consequently, applications to the FFTF are assessed against the extent to which their proposed activities aligned with the dignity principles.

In September 2016, 20 projects were awarded funding by the FFTF. Nineteen of these projects were referred to as ‘food justice projects’ – community organisations who have historically embraced the social value of food. The remaining project was a grant to Nourish Scotland to complete research and develop a framework to further inform the meaning of dignified food provision, and share best practice.[17]

Thirty-two food banks applied to receive FFTF funding. Of these, only four were successful initially. The Scottish government then put specific support in place, through Nourish Scotland and the Poverty Truth Commission, to help these unsuccessful applications to better understand the dignity principles and, in light of this understanding, modify their service and application. Consequently, the Scottish government announced in January 2017 that 15 more projects would receive FFTF funding. These projects were ‘transition projects’ – traditional food banks who wished to change their services to be more receptive to concerns surrounding individual dignity.

1.4 Review Methodology

In May 2017, Rocket Science was commissioned to complete an analytical review of the FFTF through an exploration of the progress of a number of projects. The research specification highlighted that there were two distinct types of projects to be reviewed – ‘food justice’ projects and ‘transition projects’. The aims of the review for each project type were as follows:

Aim 1 – How are the projects impacting on individuals, households and communities associated with the project? Including:

  • the extent to which projects are meeting the outcomes they outlined in their application, as well as the four dignity principles
  • how projects had an impact on the actions, attitudes and behaviours of participants, including any changes in the use of food banks
  • any wider economic or social impacts achieved by the projects

Aim 2 – What data is required to assess the impact of, and what are the critical success factors of, community led food insecurity projects in reducing demand on food banks? Including:

  • the extent to which projects have been successful at capturing and using data to track their impact and, from this, what data is required to assess the impact of projects
  • the implications of data requirements on any future projects
  • what works well and what works less well in achieving impact - including administration structures and governance, alongside other factors that help or hinder success

Aim 3 – How could the design and implementation of the fund evolve to improve the ability of the FFTF to meet its overall aim of supporting emergency food providers to transition away from traditional charitable approaches to food insecurity and provide support in more social community settings? Including:

  • how could the design and implementation of the fund change to better take advantage of the lessons learnt in this review, including evidence of the types of project that have proved effective in achieving the FFTF objectives and the extent to which they could be scaled up or rolled out?

1.4.1 Methodology

During the review Rocket Science completed desk-based analysis and 19 case studies. Field research was conducted with 13 projects between May and October 2017 and with another six projects between March and May 2018. This included:

  • Reviewing project applications and interim reports provided to the Scottish Government by all projects. All projects completed an application detailing the design of their project. Most projects had also returned an interim report to the Scottish Government detailing the progress that their project had made both operationally and in achieving intended outcomes.
  • Interviewing FFTF staff in June 2017: Rocket Science interviewed the four Scottish Government staff responsible for supporting projects through the delivery of FFTF funded activities. Each staff member was the Scottish Government contact for several FFTF projects and provided support to these projects. These interviews were used to gain a more detailed understanding of the FFTF and get some early ideas on the impact of projects from the perspective of Scottish Government staff.
  • Nineteen case studies: Rocket Science visited 16 projects to speak to staff and service users between July and September 2017 and March to May 2018, and interviewed staff and service users over the phone for a further
    3 projects in July and August 2017.

The selection of case study projects involved an initial analysis of each project to ensure that the chosen 19 organisations represented a broad spectrum of types of projects including a combination of:

  • type of participant they were reaching including age, gender, socio-economic status and ethnicity
  • type of services offered, for example: community meals, cooking classes, non-food related activities
  • location of service, ensuring a wide spread of local authority areas in Scotland and a mix between rural and urban projects
  • type of organisation, including a mix between larger well-established organisations and newer or smaller community groups
  • 11 ‘food justice’ projects and 8 ‘transition’ projects

Fifteen projects were initially identified by Rocket Science and agreed with Scottish Government. A number of these had experienced delays in getting their project operating by the time the review was undertaken. Selected case studies were replaced by other projects with similar characteristics which were felt to provide a fair picture of the varied projects funded. This was supplemented by a second round of case studies between March and May 2018 in order to talk to projects that had not been ready to engage in field research during our initial research period.

The projects we engaged with during our field research were:

Round / Type Delivery location
Beith Community Development Trust 1 - Food Justice North Ayrshire
Bridging the Gap 1 - Food Justice Glasgow
Castlemilk Parish Church of Scotland 1 - Food Justice Glasgow
Central and West Integration Network 1 - Food Justice Glasgow
Kate’s Kitchen 1 - Food Justice Dumfries & Galloway
Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust 1 - Food Justice Highland
Pilmeny Development Project 1 - Food Justice Edinburgh
Pilton Community Health Project 1 - Food Justice Edinburgh
St. Paul’s Youth Forum 1 - Food Justice Glasgow
Stepwell Consultancy Ltd 1 - Food Justice Inverclyde
Yoker Parish Church 1 - Food Justice Glasgow
Woodlands Community Development Trust 1 - Food Justice Glasgow
Start-Up Stirling 1 - Transition Stirling
Edinburgh Food Project 2 - Transition Edinburgh
The First Base Agency 2 - Transition Dumfries & Galloway
Food For Thought 2 - Transition West Dunbartonshire
Midlothian Foodbank, Gorebridge Parish Church 2 - Transition Midlothian
Moray Foodbank 2 - Transition Moray
Sauchie Active 8 2 - Transition Clackmannanshire

During project visits, the aim was to speak to at least four participants in each project, as well as staff and volunteers where appropriate. In practice, a more flexible approach was taken: 104 interviews were conducted across the 19 projects together with a range of more informal engagements not formally counted. These were a mix of interviews with staff, volunteers and participants, including:

  • 23 project staff
  • 37 project volunteers
  • 42 project participants
  • 4 staff from partnership organisations
  • 6 trustees of project organisations.

Some of these interviews were in groups and some were one-on-one. Interviews varied in length from two minutes to 45 minutes.

In most cases when attending project activities, staff had arranged for a number of participants to speak with Rocket Science during the visit. Further conversations with other participants, volunteers and staff took place opportunistically during the course of visits. In a few cases, project staff secured a separate room in which to conduct interviews and participants attended during various interview slots. For three of the 19 projects, we conducted telephone interviews.

A topic guide was developed for interviews with participants. While the topic guide was followed wherever possible, it was discovered that attending and participating in the projects activities was the best way to gain useful information and insights from participants, volunteers and staff. Therefore, the topic guide was applied flexibly in practice and information was gathered through conversation. This information covered what participants felt comfortable discussing.

1.4.2 Our analysis

We undertook an initial analysis of all 33 FFTF projects to understand their size, structure, services and outcomes. We then assessed how the nineteen case study projects were progressing against the dignity principles (Chapter 2 supported by Appendices 1 and 2). Finally, we carried out a thematic analysis of the 19 case study projects to consider ‘what works’ to engage people services (Chapter 3), data collection and governance (Chapter 4) and the impact of projects on food bank use (Chapter 5).

1.4.3 Limitations of our analysis

The topic guide for interviews with participants was intended to gather evidence on whether participants had made progress against a range of outcomes sought by the FFTF aims and objectives. It was found that participant interviews needed be informal in order to encourage involvement. As discussed above, it was therefore felt that the topic guide should not be followed too closely. While this meant that specific answers to all the questions were not available, we were able to produce a thematic analysis of the key messages – drawing on quotes and evidence from projects. This is supplemented by 19 detailed case studies telling the stories of a number of the FFTF projects.

It was difficult to collect information on the governance arrangements in projects. Many of those that were spoken to within the projects were individuals who had an operational focus and felt less able to discuss governance arrangements within the organisation or service. The conclusions that were able to be drawn on governance best practice from information collected are outlined in Chapter 4.


Email: Catriona Rooke

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