Over 73,000 Scots reliant on food banks

The store room at the Bute food bank. Picture: JP
The store room at the Bute food bank. Picture: JP
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MORE than 73,000 people in Scotland are relying on food banks to survive, new figures reveal.

Charity the Trussell Trust has revealed that 51,474 adults and 22,258 children have used their service since April - this is 2000 more than at this time last year.

It is estimated that by next April the figure could rise to in excess of 90,000 people.

More than 700 tonnes of donated food has been received by the trust with more than 540 tonnes distributed to those who need it.

• Ewan Gurr: real power needed for food bank crisis

Figures show that Dundee has the highest number of adults - 3,750 - using foodbanks in the last year while Glasgow South East has the highest number of children 1,975.

South Skye and Lochalsh has the lowest number of foodbank users with just 32 adults and 19 children receiving a three-day supply of groceries.

Ewan Gurr, the trust’s network manager in Scotland, has said that low pay and welfare reform are the main factors driving the growing demand for life-saving food parcels.

He also revealed that the charity is witnessing more and more middle class people using the service.

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Mr Gurr said: “There are four recurring factors stated by the people using our service in Scotland, the first is the rising cost of food and fuel, the second is low income and insecure employment, the third is minimum employment opportunities for those looking to get back into work and the fourth is welfare reform.

“Welfare reform and low pay are the two main drivers though.”

Awareness

Asked whether he felt the increased awareness of food banks as a service might attest for the continued rise in users, he said: “There is no empirical evidence to suggest that the increase in demand is supply led. I ran a foodbank in Dundee for seven years until 2012 and that year the number of users doubled without any increased advertising or marketing. The service had always been there, all that had changed was that effects of welfare reform began to bite.”

The trust, which has 48 centres in Scotland, opened its doors on Christmas Day when hundreds of people, including a number of children, were served a festive dinner.

Labour social justice spokesman Ken Macintosh MSP said: “These are deeply worrying and depressing figures. I think most families would like to look forward to a New Year with a sense of optimism and opportunity but I fear for many the problem is only getting worse.

“The work of the Trussell Trust is fantastic but more needs to be done by both the Westminster and Scottish Governments to tackle the shameful problem.”

In 2011, there was just one foodbank in Scotland operating in partnership with the Trussell Trust.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “It is unacceptable that anyone should experience food poverty in a country as wealthy as Scotland. We know from the Trussell Trust that welfare and benefit changes are having a significant impact on the most vulnerable in Scotland.

“Efforts to tackle economic inequalities in Scotland are being made in the face of a welfare reform programme that is estimated to reduce benefit expenditure by around £6 billion in Scotland in the six years to 2015-16.

“Despite these pressures the Scottish Government is doing all it can to protect household resources by increasing the provision of free early learning and childcare and extending the entitlement to free school meals to all children in primary one to three. In addition we are committed to supporting the Scottish Living Wage and protecting the pay of the lowest earners we have direct responsibility for through our public sector pay policy.

“We are also investing over £1 million through the Emergency Food Action Plan. We want to help food aid providers to address immediate need and make sure those using foodbanks as a result of the UK Government’s welfare reforms are able to access appropriate advice and support.”

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