Working people routinely struggle to afford food, new research finds

Citizens Advice Scotland report on food affordability, access and availability highlights hard choices facing many

SCOTTISH PEOPLE concerned about their food bills are routinely making sacrifices about the quality and the quantity of the food they eat, while many worry about food running out before they have the money to find more, new research from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has found.  

The CAS report Bringing Food to the Table, which presents the initial findings of their Food on the Table campaign, surveyed over 2,650 people in order to better understand the pressures and constraints affecting food affordability, access and availability in Scotland.

While the report stresses that the sample group of respondents cannot be seen as representative of the Scottish people as a whole, the findings illustrate the hard choices facing many across the nation.

READ MORE: Benefit cuts under universal credit lead to record increase in Scottish foodbank use, new figures show

CAS found that almost half of respondents – 45 per cent – had worried about their food running out before there was money to buy more. Almost as many – 40 per cent - have seen this fear realised in the past, while 21 per cent have gone a whole day without food due to lack of funds.

The research also found that 37 per cent had cut down on meal sizes or skipped meals entirely because of insufficient money; 23 per cent have had to skip meals so that their children could eat; and even among those in full-time or part-time employment (45 per cent of respondents), 35 per cent could not afford to eat balanced meals.

Of the foods respondents would like to buy, but cannot afford, 33 per cent would like to buy fresh fish, 22 per cent would like to buy fresh meat, 23 per cent would like to buy cakes/biscuits, and 20 per cent would like to buy fresh fruit.

CAS’s Food on the Table campaign, which ran throughout September and October this year, aims to give the Scottish public a voice on the affordability, choice and access to food.

The problems highlighted by the new report, as well as the widespread controversy over the increasing necessity of foodbanks since the imposition of austerity following the 2008 financial crash, have led to mounting calls for further action to be taken by the Scottish Government.

In Scotland, 14,318 food bank referrals were made for men, women and children in 2012/13, rising to 71,428 in 2013/14 and 117,689 in 2014/15. The most recent figures show that 133,726 referrals were made in 2015/16 - including 43,962 for children – to provide access a three-day supply of emergency food.

READ MORE: ‘Bring on the food bill’: Campaigners push for legislation on healthy, affordable food system

Writing in CommonSpace earlier this year, the interim director of Medact Guppi Bola warned that “knowing how many people go to your local food bank is not the same as understanding the underlying and ongoing health impacts of not being able to afford to eat.”

In September this year, opposition parties expressed disappointment in the Scottish Government when the proposed ‘Good Food Nation’ Bill was not included in the latest programme for government.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell argued at the time that the vision of a ‘good food nation’ had been eroded to the point where it was “largely just an industry marketing programme”, and called on the Scottish Government to “get moving and draft this Bill or make way for someone else who will”.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing responded that ministers remain committed to legislation, but sought to consult more widely on the issue first.

Picture courtesy of Staff Live

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