No one in Scotland should have to rely on charitable food donations
Today is World Food Day and an important opportunity to reflect. No one in Scotland should be left hungry and have to rely on charitable food donations.
The theme that the UN have set for this year’s World Food Day is healthy diets for a zero hunger world. This speaks to many aspects of what we’re working to in Scotland, because food is about much more than just sustenance – food is nourishment, social participation, and it’s a source of employment for many people too.
Our vision is for a Scotland free from hunger, and through the Sustainable Development Goals we have committed to achieving this by 2030. I’m grateful to the many people who share this vision and work tirelessly with us on it – but there are significant challenges ahead.
The clear and present risk still on the table is a ‘no deal’ Brexit, which is likely to push more people into poverty. Increased living costs pose a significant threat to people who are already struggling to make ends meet and are experiencing food insecurity.
That is why I have announced that organisations helping people struggling with food insecurity will benefit from an additional £1 million to deal with the pressures of Brexit.
The charity FareShare will use the additional funding to support organisations like community cafes, food parcel providers and holiday clubs that provide essential support for people struggling to afford healthy meals. This money is also on top of the £3.5 million we are making available to tackle food insecurity this year.
Beyond the issues Brexit will pose, Scotland has led the way in the UK on tackling food insecurity.
The Independent Working Group on Food Poverty we created in 2015 set the framework and direction of travel for much of the work that has followed in their Ending Hunger Together in Scotland.
It was already understood then as it is now that the UK Government’s welfare reforms were leaving people with no money to eat or heat their homes, and driving the need for charitable support often in the form of food banks.
As recommended by the Group, we’ve taken action to strengthen incomes which mean there are now nearly 1500 Living Wage accredited employers in Scotland, and have listened to people with lived experience in the design and delivery of our new social security system. We also started measuring food insecurity which informs our National Outcomes on poverty and human rights.
We’ve actually gone even further by reframing social security so it is seen as a human right. We are using our powers in full to introduce bold new measures such as the Scottish Child Payment which will mean more money in people’s pockets to meet their families’ needs.
But recent figures show 9% of adults are worried they could run out of food due to a lack of money, so there is still more to do.
Our Good Food Nation ambition looks across the whole food system. Our ambition is for people to benefit from and take pride and pleasure in the food we produce, buy, cook, serve and eat every day. And in the Programme for Government we committed to bring forward legislation to underpin this.
I am proud that we live in a nation in which people help each other. But I want to work towards a Scotland in which we share food because we want to, not because we need to. There’s plenty of food in Scotland, what we are facing is a challenge of poverty – I will continue to do all I can to tackle it head on.