Food poverty on the rise in West Lothian

Food Poverty in West Lothian is “significant and growing”, according to a new report.

File photo of food being sorted at a food bank.

And a no deal Brexit could see a surge in the numbers unable to feed themselves properly in the face of an expected five per cent increase in food costs.

Anti-poverty service manager, Elaine Nisbet, told the council’s  partnership and resources policy development and scrutiny panel that the council had  been allocated an extra 6.5 tonnes of basic foodstuffs for distribution  through the Fair Share scheme and local food initiatives.

The extra food is the first tranche of a new partnership between the council, Fair Share and Scottish Government.

Mrs Nisbet said: “There’s a growing body of evidence that food poverty in West Lothian is growing and significant. This is especially so  for those that are unemployed , or people with disabilities, and households with children, especially single parents.”

The cost of living outstripping poor incomes is one of the major drivers of increasing numbers facing food poverty, where families face difficult choices about spending. Numbers are increasing because more and more people in work are falling into food poverty.

Both the council and NHS Lothian have put in place action plans for tackling child poverty and the Scottish Government has developed national programme with Fair Share.

Fair Share is a charity aimed at relieving food poverty and reducing food waste in the UK. It does this by rescuing good quality surplus food that would otherwise have gone to waste and sending it to almost 11,000 low income families experiencing food poverty across the UK.

At a local level work is  underway to draft food growing strategy. Mrs Nisbet added: “It is clear we need to look beyond crisis, where people have to use foodbanks because of changes to benefits or circumstances and focus on the chronic, those who have longer-term need in not having enough money to buy food.”

She added that the council had carried out a “mapping exercise” to see the numbers of groups including churches and community organisations distributing food either free or at low cost to people.