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Communities aim to eradicate food poverty

Published: 2 Nov 2015 11:00

Innovative scheme to provide food and support to those in need.

Communities in Ayrshire will be able to access affordable food through an innovative scheme aimed at tackling food poverty.

The new project, which will provide meals, advice, support and mentoring in Drongan and Fullarton in East Ayrshire and Pennyburn in North Ayrshire, will seek to eradicate food poverty in the area.

Centrestage Communities will deliver the scheme in partnership with FareShare which redistributes surplus food stock with the aim of reducing dependency on conventional foodbanks.

The approach is based on a pilot project which was delivered in Ardeer earlier this year, and will see a bus providing meals to families facing the challenges associated with poverty.

Once demand is established and local community buy-in delivered, Centrestage will work with communities to open, manage and set up trading of community-led shops and hubs from which support services to tackle issues around food poverty will be offered.

The scheme will receive £200,000 each from the Scottish Government, STV Children's Appeal and The Hunter Foundation over three years.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil launched the new project on a visit to Centrestage's Kilmarnock headquarters. He said: "It's unacceptable that in the 21st century there are people who cannot afford to feed their families.

"UK Government welfare cuts and benefit sanctions have pushed more and more people into food poverty. But the Scottish Government is clear - no-one should be embarrassed or struggling in silence to feed themselves and their families.

"In the face of the UK Government's austerity agenda, emergency support through foodbanks has been essential but we know the majority of people in need don't want to rely on a hand out. They want to be self-sufficient and would rather have a supportive 'hand up'.

"This new project in Ayrshire will look to address the high transport costs, take away the stigma of food poverty, and bring communities together so they can tackle the causes of food poverty not just the symptoms. By providing healthy meals and food at reduced costs it will reduce food poverty in a more sustainable way and ultimately encourage communities to set up their own shops and community hubs.

"We expect that the learning from this project will help us to develop approaches to eradicate food poverty across Scotland."

The Scottish Government recently set up a short life working group on food poverty which will give recommendations on addressing the rising number of foodbanks in the new year.

Through the Centrestage project, the community will also be able to access music, dance and theatre classes. This approach aims to close the inequality gap by giving young people in deprived areas access to activities that build skills and tackle social isolation.

An evaluation group has been established to oversee the learning from the project with members including Professor Harry Burns, Dr Oliver Escobar and Professor Carol Tannahill.

Sir Tom Hunter from the Hunter Foundation said: "We've seen first-hand the exceptional impact this programme has had in Ardeer, now the challenge is to see if the model can be scaled across Ayrshire and dynamically adapted for scale-up across communities impacted by poverty across Scotland.

"This isn't about developing better foodbanks, it's about getting rid of them once and for all, replacing them with a sustainable enterprise that offers dignity, support and ultimately a hand up and out of poverty for communities across Ayrshire and ultimately Scotland."

Fiona McKenzie from Centrestage said: "Our experience in Ardeer so far has been incredible and Team Ardeer continues to amaze us. We now have more than 400 children participating in our sessions and community volunteers supporting activities including cookery, musical theatre classes, technical theatre support, art classes, exercise classes, befriending and walking groups.

"The Centrestage approach uses food and the arts to bring people together to unlock the skills and energy of the community. With our new community hub we are now delivering a sustainable service owned and operated by the local community themselves. Every activity has food at its heart, either providing a healthy snack, homemade soup, fresh baking or a cooked meal for every participant.

"The potential in these new communities is wonderful and I can't wait to see what we can achieve together. "

Notes to editors

The Scottish Government currently invests £1 million into the Emergency Food Action Plan which helps support 26 local emergency food aid projects and the charity Fareshare to redistribute surplus food from the food industry to communities across Scotland.

The short life working group on food poverty is chaired by Martin Johnstone from the Church of Scotland, more information can be found at: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Tackling-food-poverty-1e6d.aspx

The STV Children's Appeal is committed to helping children and young people affected by poverty in Scotland. The money raised by the STV Children's Appeal helps make a real difference in the lives of Scotland's children and young people by providing practical help like food and warm clothes; creating opportunities for training and employability; and enabling social and emotional support for those who need it most.

Since the charity was launched in 2011 by The Hunter Foundation and STV, the Appeal has raised more than £11 million. More information is available at: http://www.stv.tv/appeal/