Would including a right to food in Scottish law make a difference to the lives of parents that Home-Start supports? Emily*, whose story was featured extensively in the Scottish media this week, has been supported by Home-Start and now volunteers to support other parents. Emily is using her first-hand experience to enable policymakers to better understand why giving our children the best start in life has to include a dignified way of combatting poverty-related food shortages.

You always want to make the best of the time you get with your children when they are little and that means making sure they don’t go without the basics. I haven’t always been able to do that easily and it really makes me sad to think how much time I have had to spend just making sure we don’t go without the food we need to stay healthy.

People talk about shopping wisely, but what if you don’t have the bus fare to get you to the cheapest supermarkets? For me and my son, Callum, that means a six mile walk from home and pushing the buggy back again in all weathers. If I could stock up I would – but a low-income budget doesn’t allow for the one-off “big shop” and neither does walking along rural roads. I don’t think everyone understands how big a chunk a £5 bus fare is from the weekly budget of a parent like me.

When the money runs out, as it did when my Universal Credit was delayed, I have to rely on the help of others. It’s hard for a lot of people to imagine what it feels like to have just 85p in your bank account but that’s what happened to me. I had run out of nappies and wipes and was worried I would have no money for milk or food for my son if the overdue payment did not come through. Home-Start linked me in to a way of getting a food parcel. Now I am a volunteer helping people with similar experiences to me but I think I will still need another parcel myself this week.

Struggling for money affects your whole outlook on life. You try to stay positive for your children’s sake, but when the food runs out it is really hard not to feel that you’ve failed them, even when you know it is not your fault. That’s why it is so important that people understand that food parcels help but they aren’t a solution that really helps you keep your dignity – and they don’t remove the fear that you could find yourself having to rely on them over and over again.

Home-Start enabled me to join a group of parents who work together on coming up with ideas for healthy eating on a tight budget. We don’t sit around waiting for handouts but a lot of us do feel trapped by our very low-incomes. If Scotland took a rights-based approach to the food system maybe we would spend less time worrying and even more time helping each other.

*Emily is not the author’s real name and her son’s name has also been changed to respect his confidentiality.