In her latest article “Snow” Tuisku Curtis-Kolu, Policy Officer at includem, explores how changing the trajectory of food in our communities could help build resilience – including hearing from emergency food providers delivering support on the ground.
For low-income families, dinner can be one of the most challenging times of the day. In our Voices Report, brave families shared that this can include skipping meals to ensure their children don’t go without, trying to rely on emergency food parcels that don’t provide for their needs, and having to give up on other essentials that results in penalization.
“£25 is not enough to feed a family e for a week or pay for broadband however you are forced to choose between them. This means choosing between feeding your kids or educating them. Then social work say you are neglecting your kids for not educating them, but you are always going to choose feeding them first.” (Parent supported by includem)
Since then, emergency food provision has become even more pervasive across the country, with images of growing ques outside food banks across the news – which could soon be joined by ‘warm banks’. In our cost-of-living crisis survey that is currently underway, one lone parent said “I am now on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets due to my worries for caring for my kids. I have lost a lot of weight as I chose to feed my kids over myself all too often.”
These experiences illustrate that we are far from systems and policies that truly prioritise health and wellbeing. For our communities to be empowered and resilient, the trajectory of food in our communities needs to change. This doesn’t just mean the delivery of emergency food parcels for families in crisis – it’s about ending the need for food banks, providing access to affordable and nutritious food in local neighbourhoods, and a new vision for food in our communities.
We can’t lose sight of the core objective – which those closest to this issue haven’t forgotten.
“At some point it has to stop – it’s not sustainable… in 21st century Britain there shouldn’t be food banks. We are doing the government’s job.” (Emergency food provider)
Food poverty is poverty. Includem welcomes the government’s ambition to end the need for food banks and the proposed Right to Food Bill, but urgent action is required. The Scottish Government must ensure people can access basic necessities themselves by addressing the source of the problem – low incomes and social security & support systems that penalizes those trying to build a path out of poverty.
“Food banks have become the first port of call, rather than last resort… At the beginning of this year I had to half the size of food parcels… People are being told by benefits to go to food banks – essentially told you aren’t going to be able to live…” (Emergency food provider)
There are deprived neighbourhoods across Scotland that do not have access to affordable food – with only small (and more expensive) corner shops accessible by walking, with little to no direct public transport routes to larger supermarkets. When we consulted children and young people for the fourth National Planning Framework, easier access to affordable supermarkets was one of their key priorities. Often, those already facing deprivation only have affordable and direct access to unhealthy meals.
“One of my concerns is that processed food is cheap… That’s a concern. Clearly there’s more and more [takeaway] outlets opening all the time.” (Emergency food provider)
If national and local planning is truly pursuing the concept of ‘20-minute neighbourhoods’, this needs to start with identifying and tackling practical barriers to deprivation.
In the face of yet another crisis, we need to stem the tide of potential public apathy and fatigue among those working to help their communities. The Scottish Government must lead with an action-based plan to support dignity and resilience – one that actively stems the avalanche of need for emergency support and pursues an ambitious and inclusive vision for food culture.
“Give them that dignity and choice, it’s really important… That’s in a sense the nature of the beast. Because we are so busy we can’t give them the more dignified approach.” (Emergency food provider)
A plan like this could include making it easier for people, including children and young people, to access learning on how to cook or share a meal (such as our Simply Scran Cookbook) with other members of their community.
“Being accessible is a difficulty at the moment. Where do you go and learn. These community kitchen groups have to be able to be set up and advertise themselves… Bureaucracy shouldn’t be the thing stopping people helping their communities.” (Emergency food provider)
This could help build hope for change that is crucial for the resilience of our communities -a hope that one day those working in emergency food provision have the time to breath and celebrate successfully helping their communities end the need for their services.
“My ultimate goal is to switch out the lights and lock the door and see the day we don’t need a food bank in Dundee.” (Emergency food provider)
If you are an organisation that cares about these issues, help us call for action on Simply Scran! Sign the Letter to the First Minister and the Scottish Government demanding for change by the 16th of October.
Make a difference and join the conversation online using #SimplyScran