2020-Demand for emergency food increases

Demand for emergency food increasing as pressure mounts on volunteers

Sun, 07 Jun 2020 23:20:00 BST

​The demand for emergency food supplies sparked by COVID-19 is continuing to increase amid growing concern about the wellbeing of food bank volunteers, according to new research published by Glasgow Caledonian University.

A GCU survey of more than 200 community groups across Scotland, undertaken on behalf of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, the Scottish Government's independent advisers, reveals many organisations are at their full capacity but are not reaching everyone in need.

This anxiety is compounded by fears over future levels of funding and staffing, as volunteers return to full-time paid work.

Community groups said that there had been improvements in emergency food aid provision from the start of lockdown but there is a sense the food insecurity crisis is far from over. 

The research, conducted by the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit at GCU, found:

- 65% of frontline organisations report demand for emergency food has risen over the past month, with 73% of organisations anticipating a further rise in demand
- 80% are concerned they are not reaching everyone in need of emergency food support
- 33% of organisations expect the amount of emergency food aid funding to reduce
Nearly one-in-five organisations (18%) reported that staff wellbeing is worsening

The Commission is now making three recommendations to Scottish Ministers to ensure emergency food aid continues to be delivered as effectively as possible:

- The Scottish Government must provide more visible leadership to ensure that emergency food provision reaches those who need it
- Ministers should top up the Food Fund with what is required for as long as it is required
- Officials must learn from the experience of central and local government, community organisations and those of lived experience of poverty to build a more resilient emergency food aid network that enables the recovery and renewal of Scottish communities

Professor John McKendrick, co-director of the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit at GCU, said: "We are greatly indebted to volunteers and workers from community groups for the work they are doing in delivering emergency food supplies. There is a real sense of pride that they are doing work that is needed at this time.  However, we must also acknowledge that problems are now beginning to emerge.

"There are growing concerns about the wellbeing of volunteers and workers.  One in five expect that wellbeing will worsen over the next month and many report that we have reached a pinch point. There is a lot of stress on people in terms of what they are confronted with.

"There is also a great deal of uncertainty over whether there will be sufficient resources to deliver what Scotland needs in the months ahead.  Concerns are growing over access to funding and the amount of funding that is available to deliver."

Bill Scott, Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, said: "The Commission welcomes all that has been done so far by the Scottish Government, local authorities and the Third Sector to put in place emergency food assistance for those who need it most, including those trapped in poverty.

"We fully realise the pressure officials have been under and the hard work they are doing to ensure continued food provision.  They have performed near miracles by building on existing community food projects and establishing emergency provision so quickly from the outset of the lockdown.

"However, there is clear concern that Scotland's food insecurity crisis is entering a new phase, which will require a redoubling of efforts to combat.  The Scottish Government needs to provide more visible leadership to give organisations the confidence that food needs will be met while ensuring continued funding for vital food programmes. 

"This work must be undertaken in a spirit of continuous learning so that more resilience is built into the system.  Only then will the right structures be in place to cope with fluctuations in demand that may arise from future spikes in the pandemic and safeguard access to food."