A NEW group set up to look at ways of reducing a reliance on food banks will hold its first meeting today.
Representatives from poverty organisations and charities said they will discuss how to address the issues which push people into food poverty.
The growth of food banks in recent years is the surest sign that we need to do more to tackle poverty in Scotland.Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance
The group is chaired by Reverend Dr Martin Johnstone, the secretary of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council.
He has been asked to make recommendations to the Scottish Government by February next year.
Latest figures from the Trussell Trust show that, in 2014/15, 117,689 people, including 36,114 children, picked up a three-day supply of groceries from their Scottish foodbanks. This was up from 14,318 people two years earlier.
The first meeting comes as the Poverty Alliance’s annual Challenge Poverty Week runs from October 17 to 23.
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “The growth of food banks in recent years is the surest sign that we need to do more to tackle poverty in Scotland.
“Challenge Poverty Week is aimed at highlighting that solutions to poverty do exist, and the work that volunteers across Scotland do week in and out providing emergency food aid shows that people are committed to tackling the scandal of food poverty.
“But it is necessary that we find longer term solutions to food poverty. So we welcome the Scottish Government convening this new group to find lasting solutions to the problem.
“Through it we will be able to draw on the experience and expertise of those volunteering in food banks, people using emergency food aid and those involved in community food projects to make a real difference in the future.”
The short life working group is made up of representatives from a range of organisations including Oxfam, Fareshare and Poverty Truth Commission.
Its recommendations will feed into the Scottish Government’s Social Justice Action Plan being published in the new year.
Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said it is hoped the group will come up with a food strategy that will reduce the need for food banks over time.
He said: “It is heart breaking that anyone should be left hungry and unable to afford to feed their families in a country as prosperous as Scotland.
“UK Government welfare cuts and benefit sanctions have continually pushed more and more people into food poverty and increased the demand and number of food banks in Scotland. This shocking trend has to stop.”