More than one million Scots have suffered food insecurity

Scots have become the Old Mother Hubbards of this world. Every time they go to the cupboard for food it seems to be bare. Now the Trussell Trust has described its Hunger in Scotland report as the most in-depth study into the causes and impact of hunger to have been carried out.

By Democrat reporters

More than one million Scots have suffered from food insecurity, a “truly shocking” new report from food bank charity the Trussell Trust has found.

It described its Hunger in Scotland report as the most in-depth study into the causes and impact of hunger to have been carried out.

While its food banks distributed a record 259,744 parcels in Scotland in the year to April 2023, the report said that this was just the tip of the iceberg, with many people “facing serious hardship without such help”.

The Trussell Trust questioned food bank users in Scotland and the general public for its research, which found that 17 per cent of people suffered from food insecurity in the 12 months up to mid-2022.

The Scottish Daily Express is reporting that this equates to about 1.2 million people – more than the populations of the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh combined.

At some point over the year they will have either run out of food and been unable to afford more, reduced meal sizes, eaten less or gone hungry due to lack of money.

“Food insecurity is prevalent in Scotland and across the UK,” the report said.

“In Scotland around one in six (17%) adults have experienced food insecurity (cutting back or skipping meals due to a lack of income) in the 12 months to mid-2022. This translates to approximately 1.2 million people.”

The report said that “insufficient income is the fundamental driver for almost all people forced to use a food bank”.

According to the research almost half (46 per cent) of disabled people in Scotland had faced hunger, with almost three quarters (73 per cent) of those referred to the Trussell Trust suffering from some kind of disability.

Scottish Labour Social Security and Social Justice spokesperson Paul O’Kane said “This devastating report lays bare the shameful scale of food poverty in Scotland.

“It is scandalous that so many people are going hungry, but our two governments are missing in action while people suffer.

“We need change at every level of government to tackle this issue, and Labour will rebuild our struggling economy, design a fairer social security system, and enshrine a legal right to food in Scots law.”

More than a third (35 per cent) of all households that experienced hunger contained children under the age of 16, the report added, while more than a quarter (28 per cent) of unpaid carers had also been affected.

And while single parents make up just 2 per cent of the population, the Trussell Trust found this group made up 17 per cent of those who had gone hungry.

The report said: “Despite the growth in the number of food parcels provided by the Trussell Trust network of food banks and by independent providers, more than two thirds of those experiencing food insecurity have not received food aid.

“Food bank use therefore does not represent the entirety of need across the country, but rather those who have accessed this form of support – many more appear to be facing serious hardship without such help.”

Polly Jones, head of the Trussell Trust in Scotland, said: “It is truly shocking that being forced to turn to a food bank to feed your family is a horrifying reality for so many people in Scotland, and as Hunger in Scotland shows, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Many more people are struggling with hunger. This is not right. Food banks are not the answer when people are going without the essentials in one of the richest economies in the world.”

She added: “Nobody in Scotland should face hunger. That is why research like this is so vital. It provides the evidence we need to be able to change systems, policies and practices, so that no-one in Scotland has to face hunger. ”

She said “positive action” had already been taken by the Scottish Government, which recently published a strategy for ending the need for food banks.

But that’s not enough, and she added this needed to be backed with a “longer-term vision and much bolder action”.

Ms Jones said: “Change needs to come from both Holyrood and Westminster if we are to create a Scotland where people aren’t faced with hunger.

“We know that if all of us work together, we can end the need for food banks.”

Meanwhile, Scotland should increase its minimum unit price for alcohol from 50p to 65p, campaigners have said.

It came as a final evaluation of the policy found that it reduced alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions, and lowered alcohol consumption.

However, Public Health Scotland also said it had a limited impact on the most harmful drinkers.

Health experts said ministers should consider increasing the unit price to build on the “life-saving policy”.

The Scottish government said it would consider the report’s findings.

Top of page picture: Labour’s Dame Jackie Baillie lends her support to a local food bank in Dumbarton.

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