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Highland volunteers helping tackle food bank misery

By Tom Ramage

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has thanked compassionate community volunteers who are helping those facing hunger in Scotland.

Volunteers in Badenoch and Strathspey Foodbank gathered at the start of the festive season to pack Christmas gift food bags for those in the community who needed a little extra.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Gavin Stewart, chairman of the food bank’s steering group, confirmed: “More than 500 kilogrammes of food was packed into 67 bags, which were distributed to the referral agencies who asked for the bags to support their clients as well as directly to those nominated by their own communities.

“This equated to helping to feed more than 95 people including 29 babies and children as well as six dogs and two cats.”

Ms Sturgeon expressed her gratitude this week to a similar group – Broke not Broken, a volunteer-led project which runs a food bank and advice hub offering people support before they end up in a crisis situation.

The First Minister underlined that food bank use has been directly linked to UK Government welfare cuts, benefit sanctions and the introduction of Universal Credit.

According to data from the Independent Food Aid Network, almost 600,000 (596,472) food parcels were distributed in Scotland between April 2018 and September 2019, a 22 per cent increase compared with the last recorded period.

The Scottish Government’s Fair Food Fund has been increased to £3.5 million. This includes £2 million, a 2019-20 Programme for Government commitment, specifically targeted at helping families struggling to provide healthy and nutritious food during school holidays.

The First Minister said: “Broke not Broken have my unending thanks for their kindness. The charity is a shining example of the many compassionate organisations throughout Scotland that are helping those in our society who, through desperation and often as a result of UK welfare cuts, are forced to turn to charities to feed their families.

“It is a disgrace that increasing numbers of people across the country are struggling to feed themselves and their families. No one should go hungry or have to rely on charitable food provision in a country as prosperous as Scotland.

“We invested over £1.4 billion in support for low income households in 2018-19, including over £100 million mitigating the worst impacts of the welfare cuts.

"Our £3.5 million Fair Food Fund is supporting communities to respond to food insecurity in a way that promotes dignity and helps to move away from charitable food aid as a primary response.

“We will continue to challenge the UK Government’s punitive welfare reforms that take money out of the pockets, and food out of the mouths, of some of the most vulnerable in our society.

"That is why we are embedding a human rights approach in the design and delivery of our new Scottish social security system.”

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