SNP '˜must make tackling food poverty a priority with new powers'

The Scottish Government must use its new social security powers to reduce food poverty, an independent working group has recommended.

The Scottish Government must use new powers to make tackling food poverty a priority, an independent working group has said. Picture: Michael Gillen

The group, chaired by Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, was set up to look at how the issue can be tackled amid the growing use of food banks across the country.

It has also suggested the government introduces a system to measure food insecurity and poverty, and sets targets to reduce it.

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Further recommendations include exploring how the right to food can be enshrined within Scots Law and prioritising the investment in healthy meals at school.

Rev Johnstone said: “The primary cause of the increase in food banks has been that people do not have enough money to feed themselves and their families.

“Our report makes clear that we need to increase the amount of money for those who struggle most against poverty, such as by creating a more dignified social security system.

“At the heart of all our recommendations lies the core principle of dignity.

“People who do not have enough to eat must be treated justly and fairly. We need their wisdom and expertise to tackle food poverty together.”

Communities Secretary Angela Constance said the government will consider the recommendations set out by the group.

She said: “No-one should be left hungry and unable to afford to feed their families in a country as prosperous as Scotland.

“I thank the group for their work and for considering the issues that cause food poverty.

“UK Government welfare cuts and benefit sanctions have continually pushed more and more people into food poverty and increased the demand and reliance on emergency food provision in Scotland.

“Food poverty cannot be solved overnight and this group has played an important role in looking at how we can best support people out of food poverty.”

The group’s findings were backed by anti-poverty charities.

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “With nearly one in five people in Scotland living in poverty, we need to put more money into people’s pockets, including, critically, through an effective and adequate social security system, but also by ensuring work provides a reliable route out of poverty.”

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, added: “If we are serious about ending hunger in Scotland, the recommendations in this report must be implemented as soon as possible.”