Fresh, nutritious food and a positive environment in which to eat it is a basic right which all of us should enjoy. That this is not the case for so many in Scotland is unacceptable and, together, we must address this.
There is nothing inevitable about the rising tide of hunger and food insecurity in Scotland. Its growth over the last few years should shock and shame us all. We should recognise its immense cost, not just on those who suffer most acutely but upon all of us.
It is not enough to talk about food insecurity. We need to end hunger in Scotland and to set a timescale for doing so. We believe that it is possible to end the need for foodbanks during this Parliament and this report sets out some of the ways in which we believe that can and must happen. We recognise that tackling broader food insecurity will take longer.
The Independent Working Group on Food Poverty was established at the request of Scottish Ministers in October 2015. It has brought together people and agencies from across Scottish society with a critical interest in addressing food insecurity and the deeper systemic causes of poverty in Scotland today. Vitally, this has included people directly aware of what it feels like to have to make the hard choices between feeding their families or heating their homes. As a group we are committed, collectively and individually, to continuing our work beyond the submission of this report and would recommend that the Group should continue to work in partnership to help deliver the recommendations of this report.
A great deal has already been written about food insecurity. We have sought to draw upon this work but not replicate it. We are also aware of some of the many excellent initiatives that are going on to tackle food insecurity and we highlight a small number of these throughout our report.
Whilst celebrating the incredible work that is happening in communities the length and breadth of Scotland, we consider it vital that energy shifts to addressing the underlying causes of food insecurity and hunger.
Our report falls into five broad sections:
- We have to treat people in food insecurity with dignity as the core principle which runs through all potential solutions.
- We have to understand the scale of the problem in order that we can address it more effectively.
- We have to focus on how we prevent food insecurity and hunger from occurring in the first place.
- We have to respond more effectively when people do fall into food insecurity and hunger.
- We have to invest in creating more sustainable, longer-term and more life-enriching solutions to food insecurity.
These five sections are not separate and we need to be tackling them simultaneously.
Underpinning this is the absolute requirement of a dignified response. We are clear that the involvement of those experiencing food insecurity and hunger is critical to the development, delivery and evaluation of effective and sustainable solutions.
We are submitting this report at a time of significant challenge and opportunity in Scotland at the birth of a new Scottish Government and Parliament with considerable additional powers at their disposal. Whilst recognising that many of the key levers, particularly those relating to social security and conditionality, will remain under the jurisdiction of the Westminster Government, there is much that can and must be done in Scotland.
1. The Independent Working Group on Food Poverty should continue to work in partnership to help deliver the recommendations in this report.
Email: Graeme MacLennan