Scotland, like many countries within the UK, is facing an increasingly worrying issue of food poverty among families within a wide range of income thresholds.
The most recent figures from the Trussell Trust show that 133,726 referrals to foodbanks were made in 2015/16 - including 43,962 for children - to access a three-day supply of emergency food.
With the help of organisations like Brakes’ Meals & More, many businesses are working to help tackle the issue of hunger and poor diet amongst Scotland’s children with the creation of initiatives such as ‘holiday hunger clubs’. Activities such as this have proved incredibly popular, particularly in built up areas around cities with membership becoming oversubscribed by up to 60 per cent. As part of our work with Meals & More, RP Adam is also working with local councillors, MPs and charity leaders to look at how similar projects can be rolled out across more rural areas such as the Borders where we are based.
There’s a concern that figures highlighting regions with the biggest demand for support don’t incorporate the high number of children spread out across the country.
We are keen to make sure these children are also given the attention and support they need.
There may be a perception that the Borders is a region of wealth compared to inner city locations, however it too has areas with significantly lower incomes.
These communities also have additional issues of isolation and fuel poverty. Across the Borders there are many children who live on farms, and aside from when they are in school there are no nearby shops or charitable organisations for them to access for free supplies. This is one area which we, along with Meals & More and the help of those in positions of influence, want to shed a bit more light on. No children should be forgotten or left behind due to their postcode.
It’s also important to look at what else can be offered to help tackle the problem at its root - the “More” aspect of the Meals & More initiative.
One way would be to encourage more employers to follow our lead and engage with the Scottish Government’s Living Wage agreement. This would help ensure more families are receiving a fair wage – described as an hourly rate set independently and updated annually based on the cost of living in the UK – that is higher than minimum wage.
By working on improving the root cause of families’ poverty, we can then hopefully start to equip more working households with the required resources to help feed and clothe children to a more acceptable standard.
This is an issue that needs to be addressed by everyone who works in Scotland.
Lee-Anne Gillie is Director of UK Operations at RP Adam Ltd