Good Practice Guidance

Providing more than food: Good Practice Guidance

“food banks themselves arenae a helpful activity, they’ve got to be aligned with the capacity to provide other information, support and awareness raising for the individuals and families affected by poverty” Emergency food aid provider, Aberdeen

While providing food to someone in crisis may alleviate their hunger in the short term, emergency food aid is not a sustainable response to food poverty. Food poverty is an issue of poverty and inequality, so action to address these structural problems is needed if we are going to tackle the growth of food poverty in Scotland. On this page are included some guidance and case study examples of more holistic models of emergency food aid provision which focus on justice, dignity, and advocacy in seeking a more sustainable solution.


Justice not Charity

“treat people like a million dollars, even though they’ve come for free food, treat people with respect and things like that, just the way you would if you worked in a shop, treat people that way” Emergency food aid recipient, Glasgow

It is important that the entitlement of everyone to food as a basic human right is recognised. Adopting a rights based approach to food can help restore the sense of dignity which is often lost when people are forced to turn to emergency food aid in order to feed themselves. Models which provide a welcoming, non-judgmental environment and create opportunities for reciprocity can be important in reducing the stigma and shame often associated with receiving charitable food hand-outs.

Examples of a ‘justice not charity’ approach: Woodlands Community Garden Food and Social Support Hubs (view the case study here). For more on a human rights based approach to food, see Community Food and Health Scotland


Critical Solidarity

“to have someone there, who is willing to listen and not judge you, it restores your faith a little bit, and they’re as upset about your situation as you are” Emergency food aid provider with previous experience of using a food bank, Glasgow

In looking to tackle food poverty, it is important that staff and volunteers recognise not just that someone is hungry, but also take an interest in the reasons why they are in that situation and show support to challenge and help resolve the wider issues. Showing friendship, kindness, and concern for someone in crisis can have a big impact, particularly as they are likely to be socially isolated. Involvement in campaigning and awareness-raising about the realities of poverty and inequality is a powerful way of showing critical solidarity to people whose circumstances force them to use food banks. See the Campaigning page of this website for more. Partnership working between emergency food aid providers also offers the potential for collective advocacy and campaigning on issues of food poverty. Freedom 90 is a union of food bank volunteers in Canada which works to change charity to advocacy and campaigns for an end to food banks in Canada. This is an important example of volunteers shifting attention from food donations and distribution, and using their experiences to raise public awareness of the root causes of food poverty. In Scotland, West Dumbartonshire Community Food Share is founded on a similar critical approach.


Advice and Advocacy

“We have the Advice Centre which does a drop in which is great because if they’re sitting there people will talk to them but if we say you’ve got to go to [local town] then they won’t go.” Emergency food aid provider, Central Scotland

Having specialist advisors (such as Citizens Advice or welfare rights) available at the emergency food aid service is considered an effective model in engaging people with external agencies and the support they need. Uptake is more likely than if clients are sign-posted elsewhere for advice. Clients are more likely to be willing to engage with additional support after several visits to an emergency food aid service, once a relationship of trust has been built-up. Informal advocacy support - such as telephoning external agencies on behalf of or alongside clients - is commonly provided by staff or volunteers of emergency food aid services. People in crisis often don’t have the information or confidence to be able to access the services they need without support. However, without the right knowledge or training there is a risk that people working in emergency food aid services might not be providing the most appropriate advice or support.

For more information on advocacy, advocacy training, and a database of independent advocacy services in Scotland see: Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance. Glasgow Homelessness Network’s Navigate project is a good example of a peer mentoring and advocacy service.


Effective Referring

“I think people in crisis are more receptive if you can say, ‘phone Noreen, I know this girl - phone her and she’ll sort you out’.” Emergency food aid provider, Glasgow

People accessing emergency food aid services often face a complex range of challenges which they themselves may struggle to articulate. It can be very difficult to know what might be the most appropriate service to signpost someone to. It is also very difficult to access comprehensive, up to date information about locally available services. On the Support Services pages on this website you will find links to national organisations which provide support and advice on different issues. For information on services available in your area, contact your local Council of Voluntary Services (CVS): Building relationships with named individuals in external agencies is crucial for effective referring and helping break down barriers to engagement for clients.


Partnership working

A number of emergency food aid providers are involved in some form of partnership working with other agencies around tackling food poverty/hardship. Advantages of this include access to information and expertise, as well as opportunities to develop a more integrated response. Food Banks Partnership Aberdeen is an example of coordinated effort between a range of agencies to provide emergency food aid, and other support and advice services to move people out of poverty. The Partnership has developed a Memorandum of Understanding and an Information Sharing Protocol which helps promote effective onward referrals and more holistic support for clients. A key organisation in this partnership is Cash in Your Pocket, a referral service which provides a single point of access to a range of organisations which can help with income maximisation and financial issues.

The growth of emergency food aid provision and demand on their services has meant food poverty has become a priority for many local authorities and working groups have been set up within financial inclusion networks and other anti-poverty groups coordinated by the council in many areas. Case study on South Lanarkshire Council’s food poverty group and their food coops project.


Good Practice Guidance