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Photo of metal food containers holding salad leaves, sweetcorn and tomatoes, with utensils in the dishes.

News: Research reveals young people's support for extending free school meals and reducing stigma

Posted 7 March, 2023 by Nina Joynson

New Scotland-wide research shows that 76% of young people would eat more lunches at school if free provision was extended to all pupils.

The Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) has published findings from a nationwide survey in the Young People's Right to Food report.

In late 2022, SYP asked young people about their access to food and improvements they think could be made to uphold their right to food.

The project received 846 online responses from people aged 12-26, from 26 local authorities in Scotland.

The results highlight experiences around access to food at home and in school, and stigma associated with asking for help.

Encouraging school lunches

86% of young people thought that extending free school meals was crucial to upholding their right to food, and 76% said that they would be more likely to eat lunch at school if free meals were provided.

Additionally, 70% said that a better eating environment and/or involving young people in decision-making about school meals would make them more likely to eat lunch at school.

Stigma around asking for help 

Nearly half of respondents (47%) believe that there is a stigma associated with needing support to access food.

Young people came up with a number of suggestions on how this stigma could be reduced, such as using more inclusive, non-targeted language and challenging wider structural barriers.

Ensuring that people know where they can get help to access food was also suggested, an issue highlighted by the report's finding that only 40% were aware of the support available in their community.

Normalising conversations about food struggles was also highlighted as important. On the lack of conversations around food insecurity, one young person commented:

"If you're well-off, which I am (relative to where I live anyways), when I think about food banks, I think about helping out, volunteering. I don't think about what it's like to actually be someone requiring that help, or someone that needs to think about asking for it because they're struggling."

The report makes five recommendations on how to improve and uphold young people’s access and right to food in Scotland, as voiced by young people:

  1. Free school meal provision should be extended to all secondary school pupils
  2. Young people should be meaningfully involved in decision-making about the content and quality of school meals and in making improvements to the eating environment
  3. Greater efforts must be made to eliminate the stigma associated with asking for help to access food
  4. Local government must raise awareness among young people about local programmes that support food access
  5. Scottish Government must bring the UNCRC Incorporation Bill back to Parliament.

Click here to read more about SYP's Right to Food report

A red shopping basket full of bread, fruit and bottles, being held by a person wearing a white shirt.

News: New research explores the costs of a choice-led, nutritious family shop

Posted 18 January, 2023 by Nina Joynson

Research exploring what families would choose to eat if income was sufficient shows the inaccessibility of a healthy, choice-led food shop, with the politics of the school canteen adding to the cost.

Going shopping

Nourish Scotland worked with public health experts, academics, Scottish Government representatives and people with family experience to create shopping lists that reflect the realities and aspirations families in Scotland have for their food.

Starting research in 2020, four case study families were identified and community advisors collaborated to define an ideal weekly shop for each, considering lifestyle and nutrition.

Two distinct case study families were defined: large families of two adults and three children aged 7-15, and small families of a single mother and two children aged 2-5.

Cost of eating 

After the shopping lists were created, researchers monitored their costs quarterly.

In December 2022, the large families' weekly spend would average at £235.75, while small families would spend £108.90, in order to have what is considered a realistic and healthy diet.

The cost-of-living crisis added £106.81 to the large families' monthly cost, against what they would have paid in December 2021.

From this, researchers concluded that it would be difficult for any of the case study families to afford the shopping lists, showing that aspirations for what should be affordable is not matched by sufficient income.

Food stigma at school 

One of the primary questions on the shopping list relates to school lunches. The advisory groups recognised that school meals become a contentious issue as children grow older and their eating preferences change.

It was also recognised that eating environments also become more important and stigmatised, such as circumstances where children with packed lunches eat separately to those with school meals.

Arguments begin in primary school and mount to "tremendous pressure" in secondary school, where young people want to join their friends in eating out, to socialise and avoid stigmatisation.

Therefore, the advisors recommend any ideal family budget needs to accommodate for both packed lunches and out-of-school options.

Government support

While the ideal food shop is currently unaffordable to many households, the research reveals that policies such as universal school meals provision and the Scottish Child Payment can make a real difference.

Under December 2022 eligibility, the Scottish Child Payment would cover 46% of the small families' and 32% of the large families' ideal weekly shopping list.

Click here to learn more about the Our Right to Food project

Photo. An empty white plate sits on a white background. A silver knife sits to the right of the plate.

News: Government urged to take more action to address rising food insecurity

Posted 25 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

A coalition of charities has written to the Scottish Government to highlight the devastating impact of poverty and hunger

The open letter, penned by Includem, Magic Breakfast Scotland and the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland highlights the impact of food insecurity on Scotland’s communities. It calls on the government to commit to financial support for families on low income, ensure everyone has access to nutritious meals and create spaces where communities can cook and eat together.

Published yesterday (Thursday 24 November), the letter welcomes the Government’s doubling of the Scottish Child Payment Bridging Payment, the ambition to end the requirement for food banks and recent action from some local authorities to clear school meal debts. However, it also highlights concern over the slow progress to deliver free school meals for all Primary 6 and Primary 7 pupils and the lack of action on breakfast provision in schools.

It states:

“The cost crisis is soaring and economists warn of a looming UK-wide recession. From parents and carers skipping meals to prioritise their families. From children and young people being too hungry to learn. From members of our communities not knowing if they can afford their next meal. The Scottish Government must do everything in its power to prevent families from going deeper into crisis”.

They are calling for:

  • A commitment to the Scottish Child Payment retaining its soon to be £25 per week value in real terms next year
  • Work with Local Authorities to wipe out school meal debt
  • A clear commitment and actionable plan for the national roll out of school breakfast provision
  • Acceleration of the roll out of universal free school meals in primary schools and piloting in secondary schools
  • Supporting access to spaces where communities can create and eat together regularly.

Signatories of the letter include The Trussell Trust, Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland, Social Work Scotland, Star Project and Families Outside.

Click here to read the letter in full

Black and white headshot of young woman with long straight brown hair that is tied up, with fringe around her face. She is wearing a white floral t-shirt and necklace.

Comment: For children and young people, Hunger is Still Here

Posted 25 October, 2021 by Lynn Gilmour

As covid restrictions have eased so, too, has public concern about food insecurity. But, as Grace, a Youth Campaigner for Magic Breakfast, explains, Hunger is Still Here

Throughout the pandemic, hunger, especially in children and young people, has been top of the public agenda. Lockdown shone a spotlight on the most poignant issues in our society, especially with Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign, but now, as restrictions have eased and it appears we’re moving forward after a difficult 18 months, it seems we’re forgetting that Hunger is Still Here.

The children going to school with an empty stomach every day haven’t, though. In the last few weeks, the most disadvantaged people in Scotland have faced both an end to furlough and a £20 cut to Universal Credit. This is absolutely devastating to all affected, but even more horrific for families with children. Furthermore, the Government at Westminster this week will lay out their Budget and I’m already sure it won’t go far enough. Their plan for free school breakfast already isn’t focused on reaching children most at risk of hunger.

In contrast, the Scottish Government has committed to introducing free school breakfasts in all primary and special schools in both their Programme for Government, and their COVID Recovery Strategy. This universal approach in these schools is essential to ensuring provision is stigma-free. There’s also the plan to double the Scottish Child Payment, and whilst this is the beginnings of the bold and transformative action we need to see, more can still be done. More than a quarter of children live in poverty in Scotland. Tomorrow is too late to be taking action. Yesterday would have been better. Action to resolve child hunger must be taken right now - today.

Children don’t benefit from plans or empty promises. Children know change when it’s tangible, when food is put on their plate. As a young person myself, I’m passionate about creating a world where we all get a fair start - the best way to close the attainment gap and make sure every child or young person is as successful as they can possibly be is to ensure there is equality in the classroom - of course the children who come to school hungry fall further behind than the children who are well nourished.

I think that the Scottish Government’s plans have the power to truly change lives, but we must now work on putting policy pledges into policy realities. This is the issue we cannot delay in fixing. Scotland has the chance to lead the UK in tackling hunger, if we make those plans into real measures today then other countries will follow suit after seeing the positive impact on those who need it the most. Westminster may then bring in their own action plan that will be more transformative, and actually reach those at risk

Children and young people don’t need more waiting, we need action. End child hunger today.

Grace is a Youth Campaigner for Magic Breakfast.

Magic Breakfast is asking for your support for their Hunger is Still Here campaign.

Click here to contact your MP and let them know that Hunger is Still Here.

From Drumchapel macaroni to white bread myths: what I’ve learned from four years of Food, Families, Futures

9 June 2020

Elaine Kerridge on how our food project has deepened her understanding of inequality – and the impact the clubs have had on health, relationships and sense of community

I have been involved in our award-winning Food, Families, Futures project since 2016 and I am pleased to say that part of my role has been to help support the evaluation of the Food, Families Futures clubs and hear from children and families. I have been lucky enough to travel across Scotland and see the clubs in action.

I have danced in Tranent, made floral artwork in Methil and played Human Hungry Hippos in Clydebank – apologies again to my colleague Jane for grazing her arm in the pursuit of the win!

I have made macaroni cheese in Drumchapel, 'fakeaways' in Prestonpans and tuna pasta bake in Blairgowrie. (Who knew cornflakes could be used for anything other than in a bowl of cereal or in a chocolate crispie cake?)

So what have I learned?  What is my takeaway (pardon the pun) as this project draws to a close?

For Jamie Oliver it was turkey twizzlers. For me it was the ubiquitous white bread cheese sandwich. We make assumptions about other people's lives, including in this context what children will eat.

Over the past few years I have often heard 'Children will only eat white bread'. But our Food, Families, Futures clubs have shown this is not true; it is an unfounded fear. Children who have attended the clubs tell us 'I tried new things like tuna pasta' and 'I love fruit!'.

The opportunity to develop the activities and menus together, then cook and eat together, means everyone is engaged, people develop life skills, try new food and waste is reduced. Practitioners recognise 'The kids eat things they don't usually if they see someone else doing it' and parents tell us 'They are quite fussy but they have eaten wraps, sandwiches and soup'.

Certainly my understanding of the poverty-related issues many families living in Scotland face has increased. As has my understanding of the stigma attached to these issues and the further negative impact this can have on children and families.

Too often we hear about 'poor families', coupled with stock images of shoeless children. This is, at best, unhelpful and shows a complete lack of understanding of the experience of families across Scotland.

I have also learned a lot about food and the complexities of inequalities related to it. It seems accessing healthy and affordable food is indeed a postcode lottery.

The current Covid-19 situation has taught us many things, not least the importance of that very human experience that supports our health and wellbeing in so many ways – the opportunity to share food and quality time together.

Children, families and practitioners have told me the positive impact the Food, Families, Futures clubs have on health and wellbeing, relationships and a sense of community because 'It brings the community together'.

I look forward to a time when Sustainable Development Goal Number 2 - Zero Hunger is realised: 'End hunger, achieve food security and adequate nutrition for all' so all children in Scotland have an equal chance to flourish.

Our commitment to participation

Elaine is Policy Manager and part of our participation and engagement team

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Positive change alongside families

Elaine has written a practical report for strategic leads capturing key FFF learning

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Challenging food insecurity

Our five-year food partnership programme addressed a major societal issue

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Food, fun and family learning

Shelagh Young's independent review of FFF looks at the project's impact and successes

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Participation guidelines

Our publication can help put children's voices at the heart of your participation work

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