Future uncertain for community food larders in deprived communities

Dundee City Council is withdrawing financial support for larders due to financial constraints.

Several community food larders in Dundee could be forced to close due to a loss of funding.

Since 2020, the local authority has provided Faith in Community Dundee with £1.5m to be distributed to 17 larders across the city.

But the funding ends in March as Dundee City Council tightens its purse strings.

Strathmartine Food Larder is one of those affected. It feeds around 300 people a week and has been described as a lifeline for those surviving poverty.

Melanie Kiyani from the larder told STV News: “Our users would say they need this service, they need it, they rely on us.

“Even if we’re closed, we’ll get messages on Facebook asking if anyone could put together a bag of shopping for them, and we’re more than happy to go out of our way to help people.

“Everyone’s struggling, it’s a choice of food or fuel and it’s not fair on people.”

Jacky Close from Faith in Community Dundee is all too aware of the dire situation communities in the city are finding themselves in.

She said: “People who’ve never had to seek support before are now looking for it because of the cost of their life, the cost of their essentials, has surpassed their income and lots more people who are working, lots of older people, lots of families.

“So, what we now have is approximately 8,500 people every week seeking food support through the 17 larders in our city. That’s a number higher than we’ve ever seen.”

The leader of Dundee City Council said they are still committed to tackling poverty and deprivation despite financial constraints.

Councillor John Alexander told STV News: “Over the last decade, we have had to reduce our own overheads by £160m and the next year looks just as bleak with another £20m reduction.

“Of course, all of that has an impact, but what we’ve tried to do within our own resources is prioritise that and point it towards poverty and deprivation.”

Community food larders across Dundee are being asked if they can sustain their own finances or adapt the provision on offer to communities from March next year.

Ms Close added: “Some of them are smaller, some of them rely on the food coming from the council and can’t continue beyond that.

“It’s not about withdrawing support; it’s about adapting and changing support.”

Charities like Faith in Community Dundee are calling for both the Scottish and UK Governments to do more.

Ms Close continued: “Where is the safety net now? Because the safety net has gone. There is no safety net. People are falling constantly, and it is landing on local communities like this one to pick up the pieces.

“We need to see national change, looking at some of the big organisations like Joseph Rowntree Foundation, they’re asking for an Essentials Guarantee from the UK and Scottish Government, and that is ensuring that people have enough income to guarantee they can afford the essentials.”

Social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “The Scottish Government is investing £3bn this year in policies including the Scottish Child Payment to tackle poverty and to protect people as far as possible during the cost of living crisis.

“But there are limits to what we can do while the majority of powers over social security lie with Westminster.

“The UK Government must urgently fix the fundamental flaws with universal credit that are driving destitution and food bank use.

“We have called for an Essentials Guarantee to be applied to universal credit and other reserved benefits, so social security benefits adequately cover the cost of essentials and better protect the most vulnerable people.

“We have also committed to delivering a £1.8m cash-first programme this parliamentary term to improve urgent access to cash in a crisis so that fewer people need to turn to food parcels.”

The UK Government has been approached for comment.

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