Food banks could run out of supplies and be forced to turn away society’s most vulnerable if the UK crashes out of the EU next week, the SNP leader at Westminster has warned.
Ian Blackford said a No Deal Brexit would leave food banks in “a very dangerous position” as supermarkets could be forced to prioritise supplies for customers.
The use of food banks in Scotland hit a record high in 2018 after soaring by 17 per cent in the previous year, a report by the Trussell Trust found.
The charity, which co-ordinates the only nationwide network of food banks, has since warned that Brexit risks pushing up the cost of everyday essentials and forcing more people to seek their help.
Asked about the impact of a No Deal Brexit, Mr Blackford said: “I would be really concerned about the vulnerable. We have a duty of care to all citizens, but especially those in the greatest need, whether that’s for medicines like insulin, or simply food. That should be our immediate concern.
“I spoke recently to the minister who runs the charity in Glasgow, the Caring City, at the church in Cathcart. They deliver 30,000 meals a year. Think about no deal, and think about what it means for places like food banks, and how food banks get supplies of food from supermarkets that will all of a sudden be saying, ‘we’re not in a position to do that because we’ve got to make sure we can continue to serve our customers’.
“Food banks could be in a very dangerous situation. When you’re taking about people in need, you’re also talking about children who rely on school meals, and whose parents have to turn to other services in the school holidays. This is something that is of very grave concern.”
A spokeswoman for the Trussell Trust stressed it would “always work to support people at risk of hunger”. The charity is currently investigating crisis responses to Brexit.
They added: “No Deal Brexit poses the most immediate and severe risks to the supply of food and price of essentials. But there’s a limit to how much we can prepare for and mitigate the consequences of Brexit.
“We’re seeing the highest levels of need across the UK – food banks are already over stretched. We cannot continue to rely on support driven by volunteers and food donations to pick up the pieces.
“Our benefits system is supposed to anchor any one of us from being swept into poverty but it’s not working for everybody that needs it. The government has a responsibility to prevent people from facing hunger. There must be additional protection and support in place to ensure people are not swept into poverty as Brexit unfolds.”