- Year of publication
- Dr Mary Anne MacLeod
To tackle food insecurity, nothing is more important than an adequate and secure income. We have long known that action is therefore needed to bolster the social security safety net and to ensure work genuinely protects people from crisis through action, including by employers, to improve the quality of work. However, to date, a fuller understanding of the lives of those facing food insecurity in Scotland has been missing. This research seeks to help plug that gap by engaging with – and listening to – people facing food insecurity to discover how their circumstances change over time. Our intent was clear: we wanted to identify how people’s substantial personal efforts towards a life free from hunger, and the fear of it, can be better supported by actors operating across the public, private and third sectors. In this report, we give deliberate prominence to the words of those we spoke with. We are hugely grateful to them for sharing their experiences.
Methodology: 40 individuals were recruited for an interview who had recent (during the previous two weeks) experience of acute food insecurity (having no money for food). Twentytwo took part in a second interview four to six weeks later, and ten were interviewed for a third time a year later.
Key findings What participants told us was deeply personal and often painful. Despite food and social security being basic human rights, some consider themselves as somehow undeserving of support. For many participants, a lack of money to buy food is one challenge amongst many. It interacts with, and exacerbates, wider issues from ill-health to homelessness, debt, bereavement, and caring responsibilities. Three-quarters of participants reported some form of mental ill-health, a finding that underscores the need to consider food insecurity as a public health emergency.
Key findings 1. Food insecurity has considerable physical, psychological and social impacts on individuals and families; 2. Shame is a key barrier to those seeking help in a crisis, and the nature of support provided can make a significant difference to a person’s outcomes; 3. Inadequate and insecure incomes from work and social security are the key triggers for food insecurity; 4. Failures of existing social security and wider public services leave people with adverse life experiences acutely vulnerable to food insecurity; 5. People with ill health and caring responsibilities are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity, which in turn makes managing these situations even more difficult; and 6. People make use of informal networks and non-specialist services to help resolve financial challenges driving food insecurity.
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