Beyond hunger: how foodbanks can transform lives

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People using foodbanks require help with the causes of their food poverty

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5th October 2018 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Less than half of the people using Edinburgh foodbanks are getting support for the underlying issues, such as debt and unemployment, that have led to their food poverty.

As well as providing immediate relief in the form of emergency food, the country’s network of hundreds of foodbanks should be helping their clients to tackle these problems too, according to the authors of a new piece of research.

In a pioneering piece of research, the Edinburgh Food Project (EFP) conducted in-depth interviews with 127 foodbank clients and 47 volunteers at EFP foodbanks.

This revealed that people using them require much more help with the causes of their food poverty: mainly problems with benefits, poor health, family or relationship breakdowns, debt, unemployment and homelessness.

Yet more than half of them are not currently receiving any expert advice or support with the underlying causes of their crisis.

Researchers asked foodbank clients to explain the causes of their food problems and then prioritise advice and support services they would most likely use to help.

They also asked if clients were currently accessing such services and if they thought foodbanks were suitable places for these.

The researchers found that nine out of 10 of those interviewed would welcome and use advice and support services provided at foodbanks, and six out of ten would travel further than normal to access such services.

This is especially important as people’s underlying problems are persistent – seven out of ten clients are experiencing either an entrenched or recurring food crisis.

People said they also urgently want and need help with mental health issues, benefits and debt.

Chair of Edinburgh Food Project Emma Galloway said: “The project was born out of the firm belief that in a city like Edinburgh it is simply unacceptable for people to go hungry for lack of food. 

“We commissioned this research as we were concerned about the number of people who were returning to us regularly in crisis, hungry and in need of food. We wanted to know what the underlying issues were and how we could help people to get to the point where they were no longer in crisis and needing an emergency food parcel.

“These findings have indicated that not only do people value the supportive environment and food they receive from our eight foodbank centres but that they would also like more than food and additional support to help address the root causes of why they need to come to the foodbank in the first place."

EFP is already working with third sector partners to address these needs. For example The Community Wellbeing Drop-In, collaboratively set up by mental health and wellbeing charity Health in Mind and the Household and Family Support Service in Edinburgh, runs a drop-in service at the EFP foodbank in South Queensferry.