A new project has been launched which aims to better understand how food can be used to tackle poverty and social exclusion.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) and the University of Edinburgh are aiming to examine the work that food projects are doing to address social need.

In the third sector, charities that work with food focus on a range of areas: including poverty and inequalities, democracy and human rights, health and wellbeing, the environment and the sustainability of the food chain.

As part of the initiative nine charities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations working in the food sector in the Highlands and Islands will be provided with a paid post-graduate intern who will examine the work the organisation is carrying out.

The students will examine the impact the work of the charity is having for a period of eight weeks.

Michael Hollinger, Development Officer for Employment Services at SCVO, said more needs to be done to understand the impact of food organisations’ work and the social need they are addressing: “We want to identify suitable projects the interns could undertake. They would then scope out the most effective way for each organisation to measure their impact – this could include focus group and interviews, surveys and case studies.

“Organisations we are reaching out to include food recycling, healthy eating and cooking groups, community cafes, community shops, food banks, shopping services, school holiday hunger projects, community gardens, health and wellbeing organisations – to see if they are interested in being part of this project.

“Over the eight weeks, the students will gain valuable experience and skills, while organisations involved will gain extra skills and a resource that would otherwise not have been affordable.”

Dr Elke Heins, Lecturer in Social Policy and Deputy Director of the Graduate School in Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for our students to gain relevant applied research skills and thus improve their employability.

“The School of Social and Political Science already runs a practice programme and has experience with linking up highly motivated students with external organisations to carry out placement-based dissertations and will be at hand to support the students and their host organisations.

“In 2016-17, the School organised research-based placements for 100 students, and welcomes the chance to launch these placements in organisations across the Highlands and Islands.”

The deadline for expressing interest in the project is Tuesday 20 November, and anyone interested or who requires more information can contact Michael Hollinger at michael.hollinger@scvo.org.uk or on 0141 559 5014.