Edinburgh food bank network’s usage doubles in 5 years

Edinburgh City Mission foodbank volunteers Phil Duncan, Rosie Tait and Linda Farrer
Edinburgh City Mission foodbank volunteers Phil Duncan, Rosie Tait and Linda Farrer
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A NETWORK of food banks has seen usage more than double in five years, sparking fears welfare cuts are to blame.

The Edinburgh City Mission had nearly 1,600 family referrals at its nine churches across the Capital in 2018 – compared to just 673 in 2014.

Volunteers supported more than 8,000 individuals over the last year with donated food parcels.

“It is sad to see continued growth in the number of people in the Edinburgh area facing food poverty and needing support from one of our church-based Basics Banks,” said Edinburgh City Mission CEO, Duncan Cuthill.

“We are grateful to all the schools, churches, sports clubs, supermarkets and individuals who help to ensure that we always have enough food to give to people who have been referred to us by over 60 different agencies across the city.

“We couldn’t do what we do if it wasn’t for the many dedicated volunteers who provide a welcoming and warm environment, offer food and other material support, and a listening ear, to help people through a crisis in their life.”

Referrals of one or more recipient were up 50 per cent in the last year alone at food banks in Moredun, Bruntsfield, Newington, Corstorphine, Granton, Leith, Craigentinny, Musselburgh and Dunbar.

Mr Cuthill said the increase was down to delayed benefits, low income, debt, homelessness and the breakdown of relationships.

Latest city council figures reveal about 82,000 people living in poverty across the Capital - while more than one in five (22 per cent) of all children in Edinburgh grow up in poverty.

Established in 1832, the Edinburgh City Mission works on food poverty relief in partnership with a network of nine churches.

Food parcels are issued for an average of five weeks to get families through a crisis, while food banks operate once a week all year round, except December 25-27.

SNP Edinburgh Northern and Leith MSP Ben Macpherson blamed the UK government’s welfare cuts for the rise in food bank usage.

“These are truly heartbreaking figures for Edinburgh, which show the devastating impact of UK Tory government policies on our local communities,” he said.

“The fact that food bank use is growing across Scotland is a damning indictment of UK government austerity, their cuts to welfare and the botched roll-out of Universal Credit.”

“Sustained Tory cuts have created these problems and Universal Credit is making things worse – which is why the Tory roll-out of Universal Credit must be halted by the UK government so that the fundamental flaws can be 
addressed.

“I see the impact of Tory benefit cuts on a daily basis in my constituency, and the Tories have shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted with social security in Scotland.

“That is why we need the full powers over social security to come to Scotland, so that we can put an end to disastrous, unjust Tory welfare reforms like the current roll-out of Universal Credit.”

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com