National plan to end need for food banks

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Proposals to end the need for food banks as a primary response to food insecurity have been published.

Views are being sought on the Scottish Government’s draft national plan, which is supported by food bank operators, including the Trussell Trust and Independent Food Aid Network.

The plan follows action during the pandemic to prevent food insecurity through strengthening household incomes and the delivery of cash-first responses to financial hardship.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said: ‘We share the same vision as food bank operators – they are not a long-term solution to poverty. Our draft plan sets out what we will do within our powers – including introducing a shopping voucher pilot scheme – to make food banks the last port of call.

‘Over the last year we have invested around £2.5 billion to support low income households, including nearly £1 billion to directly support children.

‘Despite our fixed budget and limited powers we are taking action to support those in poverty, including discussions around establishing a minimum income guarantee for Scotland.

‘As part of the right to an adequate standard of living, people need to be able to access food that meets their dietary, social and cultural needs and this plan shows the way forward.’

Sabine Goodwin, co-ordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, which represents more than 500 food banks across the UK, said: ‘As the cut to Universal Credit and cost of living increases exacerbate poverty in Scotland, the publication of the draft national plan to end the need for food banks couldn’t be more timely.

‘With a cash first, collaborative approach to food insecurity as the cornerstone of this plan, a time when food banks will no longer be needed to plug the gaps left by financial hardship is within sight.’

Catriona Petit, service manager at Oban’s Hope Kitchen, said: ‘As a member of the Independent Food Aid Network we would echo Sabine Goodwin’s endorsement of a cash first approach to food insecurity. We have always operated our food bank with a desire to see it not being needed.

‘The food bank in Oban provides a vital crisis service but we would like to see an approach nationally that looks to significantly reduce the demand for such a service. We have welcomed Argyll and Bute’s Flexible Food Fund which has helped so many people access financial support and advice during this difficult time.

‘As a community café and garden the food bank is only one aspect of what we do and we would love to be able to focus more on providing activities to promote wellbeing and reduce isolation and loneliness, and less on responding TO food insecurity. We look forward to a day that we can do that.’