How to end the need for food banks as a primary response to food insecurity is the subject of a new consultation from the Scottish Government.

Ministers have published a draft national plan, which is supported by food bank operators including the Trussell Trust and Independent Food Aid Network.

The plan follows action during the pandemic to prevent food insecurity through strengthening household incomes and the delivery of cash-first responses to financial hardship.

Ideas put forward in the consultation fall under the headings of Prevention, or Response.

Under Prevention, in addition to existing policies on fair work, social security (including the Scottish child payment and support for those entitled to free school meals), and the cost of living (such as money advice, affordable homes and fuel poverty schemes), ministers are exploring how to deliver a minimum income guarantee, and a right to adequate food as a human right.

Under Response, in addition to the existing Scottish welfare fund and other discretionary supports, and support for community organisations, ministers are now exploring alternatives to food banks as the last port of call for those in need.

Ideas include:

  • investment in cash-first local partnerships, applying good practice examples learned during the pandemic response, bringing food banks, money advice services, local authority officers including those from the Scottish Welfare Fund and public health teams, together to identify the best response for their local area and agreeing short, medium and long term actions to deliver it;
  • piloting the use of shopping vouchers, initially focusing on advice providers within the Citizen Advice Scotland network since money advisers are one of the main referrers to food banks and this may also help to increase the takeup of money advice and referrals to emergency financial assistance;
  • work with other national funders, including the National Lottery Community Fund, Robertson Trust and CORRA Foundation to develop shared values that help to further prioritise action that reduces the need for food banks; and
  • working with the Trussell Trust and the Independent Food Aid Network, as the two largest food bank networks in Scotland, which share an ambition to end the need for their services, and others to provide practical assistance in developing transition and exit strategies, including by learning from the Trussell Trust’s Pathfinder Programme.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison commented: "We share the same vision as food bank operators – they are not a long term solution to poverty. Our draft plan sets out what we will do within our powers – including introducing a shopping voucher pilot scheme – to make food banks the last port of call."

Sabine Goodwin, co-ordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, added: "With a cash first, collaborative approach to food insecurity as the cornerstone of this plan, a time when food banks will no longer be needed to plug the gaps left by financial hardship is within sight."

Click here to access the consultation. It remains open for responses until 25 January 2022.