A new three-year project aimed at preventing food poverty and reducing the need for food banks has been awarded almost £1 million in lottery funding.
‘A Menu for Change: Cash, Rights, Food’, will launch next year and will bring together Oxfam Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Nourish and The Poverty Alliance to work in partnership.
The scheme has been granted £998,882 by the Big Lottery Fund Scotland and those behind it said it will seek to cut the need for, and reliance on, emergency food aid.
Working in three local authority areas, it will pilot alternative services and approaches to reduce the number of people turning to food banks for aid.
Central to this approach will be enhancing access to cash, including by strengthening links to the Scottish Welfare Fund. As well as cash, the project will promote alternative, more dignified ways of supporting those facing hunger such as promoting access to healthy food through community cafes or food co-operatives.
The number of emergency food packages handed out by the Trussell Trust, which runs a nationwide network of foodbanks, has increased by more than 900 per cent in the three years up to 2015/16, the organisation has said.
Between April 2015 and March this year, more than 133,000 people were given three days’ worth of emergency food.
But they claim the full scale of food insecurity is “significantly higher”, as figures from other emergency food aid providers is not collected nationally and a lack of monitoring of those adopting coping strategies such as missing meals.
Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “Oxfam responds to food crises globally but the hunger we see in communities across Scotland isn’t created by a lack of food, it is caused by poverty.
“People across Scotland have responded incredibly, whether by volunteering at a food bank or donating cash and food. However, the truth is that food banks should not need to exist at all - everyone should have enough money to afford food and other essentials.
“We know that ending hunger in Scotland by ensuring everyone has enough money for food is a huge challenge. However by harnessing our collective expertise and by working with those responding in communities whilst ensuring people at risk are at the heart of designing solutions, we believe we can minimise the need for emergency food aid in Scotland.”
Maureen McGinn, Big Lottery Fund Scotland chairwoman, said: “The levels of food poverty and hunger across Scotland’s communities should concern us all.
“We’re delighted to support this innovative project which aims to tackle the causes of food insecurity and improve responses to it.”
All four partners were members of the Scottish Government’s Independent Working Group on Food Poverty. The project will build on the group’s findings, which called for dignity and rights to be at the heart of the response to food insecurity.