Rising food costs will hit the poorest Scots hardest in 2017, campaigners have warned.
Food prices across the UK rose by 8 per cent in real terms between 2007 and 2015, according to the latest figures by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, while economists predict inflation will jump over the next two years as Brexit takes effect.
Researchers are now working to understand how fluctuating food prices impacts on those with the least disposable income to provide a more accurate assessment of the situation north of the border.
Around one in ten Scots currently live in “extreme” poverty – classed as a household income of 40 per cent less than the median.
Those on low incomes spend a greater proportion of their income on food than their wealthier peers, research by the Scottish Health Survey has found, meaning a hike in prices would be particularly challenging for this group to cope with, leading to increased levels of food insecurity amongst those who are already struggling to get by.
“Understanding how people experience and respond to food insecurity is vital to improving public policy in this area,” said Ian Montagu, a researcher at ScotCen, which carries out the annual health survey.
“Work is ongoing to accurately gauge how many people in Scotland are struggling to access food, with ScotCen collaborating with the Scottish Government to incorporate a robust food insecurity scale into its annual Scottish Health Survey.”
One in ten people, including children, across the UK, skip meals and some six million people struggle to put food on the table, said a spokeswoman for FareShare, a national charity dedicated to distributing surplus food to people in need.
“Organisations such as FareShare continue to have a real effect upon the lives of those who are affected by poverty and social disadvantage, with the benefits of food provision shown to extend far beyond improving nutrition,” added Montagu.
The charity operate four centres across Scotland.
“We enlist an army of people to manage the nationwide logistics of receiving food delivers from retailers like Asda and Tesco and redistributing it to 5,000 frontline charities and community groups that support vulnerable people such as homeless shelters, children’s breakfast clubs, older people’s lunch clubs and domestic violence refuges,” said a spokeswoman.
Gillian Kynoch, head of FareShare in Scotland, said: We are working to identify more and more local partnerships to enable FareShare’s food to reach more people affected by food poverty, particularly ‘hidden’ groups such as children and families in poverty and people living in areas of multiple deprivation.
“We look for the food we provide to create shared meals and life-enhancing support rather than handouts.”
FareShare estimates it saves each charity it provides food to more than £13,000 a year on average.