I see first hand how Scots are struggling

8 June 2022 Written by The Scottish Sun
Laura supermarket

MILLIONS of meals have been handed out across Scotland to desperate families in the last year, and hunger and poverty are only going to get worse as the cost of living crisis deepens.

In this op-ed, originally appearing in the Scottish Sun on 6 June 2022, Cyrenians CEO Ewan Aitken insists our current system is not working and that the struggling people of Scotland must be put at the heart of decision-making from now on.


OVER the past few months we’ve seen a 30 per cent increase in the number of people attending our community pantries, while a recent survey we ran showed one in five adults are currently skipping meals to make end meet.

In the last 12 months alone, our FareShare depot has distributed 1,003 tonnes of food to people at risk of hunger across Central and South East Scotland. That’s the equivalent of 2,387,120 meals.

We know that, with rising costs across the board, these numbers are only set to grow.

What’s more important though, is to look beyond the numbers at the people facing the indignity of hunger. We know that those skipping meals are most likely to be counting every single penny of income they have and making tough decisions every day about whether they can afford to pay for gas, electric or even rent.

Batch cooking or swapping to ‘supermarket brands’ will not ease this burden for families pushed to the edge, and this dangerous rhetoric only furthers the insidious suggestion that hunger is a result of individual failure, not the result of a system unfit for purpose.

Foodbank

Adding more foodbanks is not the answer.

We need real, practical support for those currently experiencing the harsh reality of poverty and food insecurity. Hunger is often only the tip of the iceberg.

It’s simply not enough to provide access to food, we need to rethink the food supply chain. Two million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK every year while people go hungry. This is unacceptable.

Our FareShare Depot is one solution to this issue, redistributing surplus food to organisations working directly in the community who, in turn, provide people access to a hot meal and the equally important peer support that is essential to each of us thriving.

Flexing the community connections we foster through this network proved invaluable during the pandemic. People who traditionally didn’t access services were able to seek help efficiently and free from shame. This same network is working hard to provide support now while many are facing hunger for the first time.

crate of food into van

Our Good Food projects are at the frontline of food poverty in South East and Central Scotland. 

Built around a principle of dignified access to food, free from the shame of ‘needing handouts’, our food projects support over 20,000 people a week.

But we offer more than food at our projects. We offer connection, peer support and can link people into education and employment opportunities. The informal support created through these projects is as valuable as that of our formal support.

People are building community resilience, taking care of their neighbours and looking out for one another at a time that this kind of care can be life-saving. Food is just the first step towards recovery; when we are well fed, we are better able to respond to what life throws our way.

The current cost of living crisis is set to throw more people into poverty, many of whom will experience the indignity of hunger for the first time.

We simply cannot sit idly by and accept this as one of life’s many hardships or allow the “othering” and stigmatising of people experiencing poverty.

Each of these issues cannot be looked at in isolation. Energy bills, cuts to Universal Credit, and growing reliance on food projects across our country are all interlinked.

It’s time the energy and compassion from the pandemic was put to good use and we put people at the heart of our decision-making once again.