HARD-up families are relying on Capital foodbanks in record numbers, the Evening News can reveal today.
Saughton-based charity Edinburgh Food Project handed out more than 9,500 emergency food supplies this year – up 18.5 per cent on last year and more than double the number five years ago.
The shocking figures were labelled a “disgrace” while anti-poverty campaigners called for greater help and support for the poorest.
“We don’t want to be here forever,” said Bethany Monaghan, foodbank manager of Edinburgh Food Project.
“No one in Edinburgh should need a foodbank’s help and we want to see an end to local people needing emergency food at all.”
The 9,536 three-day emergency food supplies were provided to crisis-hit families between April 2017 and March 2018 in North West, Central and East of Edinburgh.
This compared to 7,767 the previous year and only 3,612 back in 2013/14.
A third of the supplies this year – 3,162 – went to children. The 18.5 per cent rise in the Capital over the last year is above the UK average of 13 percent.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Ms Monaghan. “With a benefits system that catches people before they fall into crisis, and secure work that provides people with enough money to cover the cost of essentials, this is possible.
“But until that time, we’ll continue to provide vital support when it matters most.
“We’re dedicated to ensuring that people in our community with no money for food are able to access emergency support, and that has only been possible in the last year because of the incredible generosity shown by local people in donating food, time and funds. Thank you.”
A member of The Trussell Trust’s network of foodbanks, EFP attributes the rise in Edinburgh to people struggling with continued issues with benefit payments.
As well as providing emergency support to prevent families from going hungry, the charity also campaigns for change and produces research.
The roll-out of a “more than food” model to help foodbank users address the underlying causes of their food poverty is also being considered.
It would be based on providing debt counselling and income boosting services with research commissioned to assess the need.
Data was gathered from 177 interviews with EFP clients, volunteers and others last month with results expected soon.
The running costs for the foodbank are around £81,000 a year, all of which is raised through grants and individual donations to enable them to continue their work.
Costs include warehouse space in New Lairdship Yards to sort and stock donated food and a van to pick up donated food and deliver to distribution centres.
Founded in 2012, nearly 100 tonnes of non-perishable, in-date food, including tinned goods, was donated by the local community to EFP and sorted by 180 volunteers over the past year.
Ash Denham, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern, slammed the UK government for “driving families to foodbanks”.
She blamed Tory cuts with benefit delays and sanctions the primary reason for referrals, with the roll-out of universal credit a factor in the rise.
The SNP have called on the UK government to reverse the benefits freeze and introduce a real living wage to help ensure families have enough money to live on.
“It’s a disgrace that families in Edinburgh Eastern and across Scotland are having to rely on emergency food parcels just to get by,” said Ms Denham.
“Millions of families across the UK are suffering from a Tory pay cut – as rising prices, stagnant wages, and cuts to social security continue to squeeze living standards and push households into poverty, debt and crisis.
“These figures from the Trussell Trust show that the problem is getting worse – with foodbank usage rising year on year.
“Tory policies are making it harder for families to cover even the basic costs of food, housing, and bills.
“Families cannot afford another year of Tory cuts. It is vital that the UK government finally takes meaningful action to boost incomes. This must include delivering a real living wage and reversing the benefits freeze to help ensure families have enough money to live on.”
And Labour called for an “end to austerity” after national figures revealed more than 170,000 emergency food supplies distributed by The Trussell Trust’s 52 foodbanks in the year.
The figures represented a 17 per cent increase in demand north o f the border compared to the previous year.
Labour spokeswoman for the eradication of poverty and inequality Elaine Smith said: “These figures should be a burning source of shame to those in power.
“Government ministers claim that the fundamentals of our economy are strong – soaring foodbank use shows that our economy is fundamentally broken. Labour would take a different path. We would fix our broken housing and energy markets, we would end insecure work by banning zero hours contracts and deliver a real living wage of £10 per hour.
“Across the UK Labour would end the benefits freeze – and in Scotland we would increase child benefit by £5 a week.
“We’ll put this to a vote in the Scottish Parliament this week in the Social Security Bill. The Tories and the SNP can no longer sit back and accept these figures. The eradication of poverty and inequality should now be central to every government policy.”
Edinburgh Green councillor Melanie Main also blamed welfare cuts and called for greater efforts in tackling inequality. “The latest dramatic rise in foodbank use is yet another sign of savage welfare cuts coming home to roost,” said Cllr Main. “The even higher rise in Edinburgh is a stark reminder of how unequal our capital city remains. Only this week, some aspects of welfare policy have been devolved to Scotland but only very partially and it will take a long time to change services on the ground.
“So meantime, the council needs to redouble efforts to work with the voluntary organisations to combat the immediate crisis of food poverty. At the same time, more needs to happen to help people out of food poverty, by being able to develop the skills and confidence to take more control over food.
“That should be a renewed focus of a food plan for Edinburgh, working with food producers, retailers and community groups to end food poverty and to promote healthy food for everyone. Twenty years ago, food poverty was a phrase that hardly anyone would have recognised. It is now one of the most damning issues of our time.”
Anyone interested in supporting the foodbank’s work can find out more at www.edinburghnw.foodbank.org.uk