Food banks 'dreading the winter' as demand rises

Fiona Dalgleish says food bank users are "exhausted and demoralised"
Fiona Dalgleish says food bank users are "exhausted and demoralised"

Food banks across Scotland have noticed a continuing increase in users, while some say donations have dropped.

Fiona Dalgleish, the manager at Peeblesshire Foodbank, told BBC Scotland News: “We are dreading the winter to be honest.

"Last year was bad enough, but people are now completely exhausted and demoralised on top of being cold and hungry."

Trussell Trust, a food bank network which operates across the UK, said it had distributed 128,490 food parcels in Scotland so far this year.

Adam Wines with a food bank sign
Adam Wines said food bank use had increased by 36%

The Inverclyde food bank is part of the Trussell Trust network and manager Adam Wines said he had noticed a 36% increase in use at the same time as a 30% drop in donations.

Mr Wines said donations were typically from local supermarkets and churches.

However, he added that the food bank has had to shop for groceries to be able to continue supporting the community.

FareShare is an organisation that distributes unsold and extra food from supermarkets to community groups such as after-school clubs, homeless shelters and food pantries across Scotland.

It has also noticed it has distributed more food this year and is expecting the demand to increase over the winter period.

The People's Pantry in the Govanhill area of Glasgow is part of the Fairshare Network.

Woman with crate of food
In 2022/23, FareShare Scotland distributed 3,725 tonnes of food

Pantries are an alternative to food banks where users shop for produce at a highly subsidised price instead of receiving it for free.

The People's Pantry aims to provide nutritious and "culturally appropriate" food to accommodate the community, particularly as Govanhill is one of the most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in Scotland.

Ms Uygun is the chief executive of Govanhill Baths, which manages the pantry.

"We have a lot of Muslims and people from different ethnic backgrounds who don't always understand or like what we consider appropriate food," she said.

"There are lots of vegetables that you wouldn't get in supermarkets because they’re eaten by a particular ethnic group and they don’t get catered for."

Other culturally relevant foods include halal meat and specific herbs and grains.

Donations have 'completely dropped'

The £4 fee members pay for their regular shop is used to buy fresh and culturally specific foods from markets and wholesalers, as these are not always included in supermarket donations.

"We also have a really good relationship with local community organisations," Ms Uygun said.

However, she added that donations had "completely dropped" and the diversity of food that was being donated was much smaller.

The People's Pantry has about 550 active members with 300-400 people using the shop weekly.

"We do have a very large waiting list of more than 400. That tells you quite a lot about the amount of people wanting cheap food." she said.

She added that community members had asked for a microwave in the space and that "hot soup Fridays" had been reintroduced to provide hot meals to take away.

"We’re doing more of that now than we’re used to because people are turning up more and more hungry, but also they can't afford to heat the food that they buy from us," she said.

Gerard McKenzie-Govan in the "tuck shop"
Gerard's "tuck shop" serves the community through The Blankfaces store in Glasgow's west end

Gerard McKenzie-Govan runs a food bank nicknamed the "tuck shop" at his not-for-profit clothing store in Glasgow.

He has noticed the same drop in donations as Mr Wines and Ms Uygun, and has also begun a weekly hot food service for the community.

Mr McKenzie-Govan told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime programme: "We've got younger people coming in, we've got people that are older, in their late sixties.

"It seems like it's now become a reality that poverty has really hit people this year."

Polly Jones, head of the Trussell Trust in Scotland, said: "At a time when need for emergency support is greater than ever, the scale of the hunger and hardship faced by thousands in Scotland must be met with significantly scaled-up action this winter and beyond."