Monday, 30 September 2013

A future for food banks?

This year, I have participated in various events and workshops where discussions have taken place about the cost of food, the importance of local food growing and the development of food banks.  

With increasing number of people seeking help to feed themselves and their families, the response of local community groups and civic society has been to help set up and give donations to food banks. Alongside other councillors from Glasgow City Council on 27th June 2013, I gave support to a cross party motion on food poverty which stated:-

“Council notes the growing number of - and demand for – food banks in Glasgow
and, while noting with concern the political and economic conditions which have
led to their growth, Council commends all those individuals and organisations
who have come together to provide food and support for those in crisis.
Council resolves to establish a food bank forum, to include local faith groups,
third sector bodies, volunteer groups and the local community, to examine what
support and practical assistance can be provided by the Council to the growing
network of food banks across the city, to support food banks in the short term 
and to develop capacity in the sector.

Council further notes figures from the Trussell Trust and Citizens Advice
showing half a million people now rely on emergency food aid and that the single
most common reason for people seeking food aid is the delay, reduction or
withdrawal of benefit payments. Council notes clear evidence that benefits
sanctions have gone too far and are leading to hardship, hunger and 
destitution on a large scale.

Council asks that the Leader of the Council writes to Dame Anne Begg MP to
urge the House of Commons and Pensions Select Committee to seek an urgent
inquiry into the relationship between benefits delay, error or sanctions, welfare
reform changes and the growth of food poverty. Council also asks that the Chief
Executive writes to the Department of Work and Pensions to request the regular
publication of data on the number and type of household who are deprived of
their benefits by reason of benefits delay, error or sanctions; and the number of
referrals from Jobcentre staff to local food banks in Glasgow.”

Further action is needed as a follow up to this motion. For instance, we can ensure there is a link up with other local authorities to address food poverty issues. On my visit to the Isle of Skye for the September weekend, I found that there is a food bank with a base in Portree. There is an opportunity to work in solidarity with local food banks across Scotland.

Skye Food Bank Postcard

As the financial situation continues to reach crisis point for more people due to the rising cost of living and welfare reforms by the UK Coalition Government take effect, there is a need to continue to provide emergency support.  

However, we must also encourage local food networks to develop and thrive. More residents should be able to learn gardening know-how, as well as access raised beds or plots for growing food. In addition, we need to ensure there is skill sharing and capacity building so that people involved can cook using the ingredients that they have produced. 

Useful links:

Oxfam -

Church Action Against Poverty -

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