People have a right to food and it is a shocking fact that around a third of people using food banks in Scotland are children.

The result of a near decade of austerity has been that 27% of people now have incomes below the Minimum Income Standard – below the amount needed to afford a basic basket of goods and services. We see the impact of this all around us and in particular in the rise of food insecure families.

Listening to children and including their voices in decisions which impact them is a fundamental pillar of respecting children’s rights. This is why Nourish worked with Home-Start UK and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland to capture the views of 32 children across Renfrewshire, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh for a new report, "Living is more important than surviving"

The children recognised the inherent unfairness of food insecurity, particularly for other children. As one child said: “They won’t be able to grow big and strong.” Children highlighted a range of physical health challenges, and behavioural and emotional challenges. They recognised that money was one of the most significant reasons why some children may not have the food they need. They also knew that food insecurity was a challenge children experienced globally – including children in Syria who live, according to one child, where “…all the shops have been bombed so they can’t get any food.”

These thoughtful children might be surprised that, while we do know that lack of reliable access to healthy, tasty food has negative impacts on wellbeing, there is no UK-wide population monitoring of how many people are food insecure either in Scotland or the rest of the UK.

When household budgets are tight food is one of the first things to be cut. A small-scale analysis by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation found that 10% of people in the UK are experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity.

Nourish believes there has been a violation of the right to food, as well as the right to social security, the right to work, the right to health, and the right to non-discrimination in the enjoyment of socio-economic rights. We made this case at a UN Committee earlier this year (the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) and the Committee agreed.

They recommended that the respective UK governments ‘develop a comprehensive national strategy for the protection and promotion of the right to adequate food.’ And they made a number of recommendations around the adequacy of social security and wages. The Committee on the Rights of the Child also raised these issues, and recommended child specific monitoring of food insecurity.

The children we listened to also thought more should be done. Many of them recognised that a number of people had responsibility for ensuring children had a healthy diet. They suggested family and community based solutions, and solutions that politicians could implement. Saying, for example, that: “Every single tax in one week should be donated to everyone in Scotland that’s poor.”

And inspiring the most hope, children wanted to be involved in making decisions. When asked what the First Minister should do one child said: “Listen to everything that every child says to her and take it all in and write it down and do all she can.”

 

Elli Kontorravdis (elli@nourishscotland.org.uk) is the Policy & Campaigns Manager at Nourish Scotland, and is leading on the right to food campaign. Elli led the research and writing of the report “Living is more important than surviving” commissioned by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.