Minister persuades MSPs to back pledge to end food poverty

Marc Prowe
Rev Marc Prowe and Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Claire Baker.

Seventy MSPs have vowed to take action to tackle the “enormous scandal” of food poverty.

They signed a pledge promising to reduce food poverty and to support sustainable anti-food poverty initiatives in their constituencies.

Rev Marc Prowe, minister at Auchtertool linked with Kirkcaldy Linktown Church in Fife, manned an information stand, with others, at the Scottish Parliament today to collect signatures.

MSPs were reminded of the Dignity - Ending Hunger Together in Scotland report published last year, which was spearheaded by Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, Secretary of the Church and Society Council on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Mr Prowe said the impact of food poverty is enormous and represented a “deep moral and structural failure” of representative democracy.

The minister, who claimed the time had come for “real change”, helped establish Kirkcaldy Foodbank – an independent, community initiative based at Dysart St Clair Church – in 2013.

It relies on 90 volunteers, working at least 1,700 hours per month, to keep up with demand.

Failure

They spend around £3,000 on food every month to top up donations of tinned and dry foods collected at supermarkets and churches in the town.

Demand has soared over a 24 month period – from 4685 people fed in 2014-15 to 9849 people in 2016-17.

A total of 279 children and 556 adults are fed every month.

Mr Prowe said: “For people in crisis, a food-bank is the last option.

“The impact of this poverty is enormous and is a deep moral and structural failure of representative democracy.

“This issue is larger than the capacity of any singular charity or individual agency.

“That is why we have asked our MSPs to sign the pledge and evidence what they will do over the next six month period.

“Unless a more coordinated and funded approach is urgently taken, society keeps limiting the lives and life choices of so many of our own people.

“We all become poorer as a consequence of this inaction and neglect loving our neighbour.

"It’s time for some real change.”

Inspired

Mr Prowe said Church of Scotland members in Kirkcaldy were motivated by their faith to help people in food poverty.

“In a way, the Christian faith is the eating faith,” he explained.

“One of our main sacraments is sitting down and sharing food and drink together.

“Jesus sat round tables and reminded people to share what they have and that is how the multitude was fed.

“We are hugely inspired by that and want to take it further into our society today.”

Mr Prowe said many foodbank clients were on zero hour contacts and in unstable employment, uncertain about much money they would have from month to month.

“We should not need foodbanks in one of the wealthiest nations of the world,” he added.

“There are a number of factors stacked against people, the economic downturn and the way the benefits are organised.

"It is really squeezing people hard.”

Engagement

Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSP Claire Baker arranged for Kirkcaldy Foodbank to exhibit in the Scottish Parliament this week.

“It is a really good way for volunteers to raise the issue of food poverty with MSPs and share what they are doing to address it,” she said.

“The churches in Kirkcaldy provide a really good network and offer people a safe and welcoming place to come for assistance when they need it.

“The churches have a good base of volunteers, people who are willing to be engaged in the community and recognise the problems we have with poverty.

“They see it as part of their responsibility to try and address that.”

Pledge
Seventy MSPs have signed the pledge

Moral crisis

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who represents North East Fife, said he was impressed by the work of volunteers to help the most vulnerable in society.

“Churches, over the generations, have played a big role in stepping in when there are crises in the community and abroad,” he added.

“This foodbank is a classic example of that and the work they are doing at Kirkcaldy is first class.

“Foodbanks represents a modern-day, moral crisis, which we need to resolve, and it is great that the short term demand on food is being met.

“But we need to find a longer term solution to this because we cannot go from one crisis to another.”