Caption: Councillors Kirsteen Sullivan, Andrew McGuire and Errin joined members of the Polbeth Baby and Toddler Group at the Hub where the community shop and fridge is based.
Food insecurity is a wide description which is used when people are worried about not having enough food for themselves and their families. There is an increasing number of local households which don't always have access to enough good, healthy food. Community food initiatives across West Lothian are filling the gap and providing an effective way to tackle food insecurity and enable local people to take part in community life. One project in West Lothian which is providing a popular service within its community is the Polbeth Community Hub. The Polbeth Hub received council funding to pilot a 'Big Lunch', to purchase a community fridge, receive free sanitary products and have an Advice Shop advisor working at the hub on a regular basis to provide advice, support and advocacy to local residents. Staff from the council's Advice Shop also attend local groups, such as the Polbeth Community Hub, to offer advice on a number of financial issues, including how to access financial support.
Depute Council Leader Kirsteen Sullivan visited the Polbeth Community Hub recently to see the work being carried out first hand. She said: "There is evidence at both national and local level that there's a rise in hunger and food insecurity, which both result from an increase in poverty. Of course, not everyone that attends local initiatives experiences poverty but some do struggle and it's important to provide support when it is needed. "Projects can help deliver a variety of services and ensure everyone has the opportunity and confidence to access a healthy diet for themselves and their families. Community food initiatives have a positive and important role to play in protecting and restoring people's sense of dignity, and it is really inspiring to see how the work at venues like the Polbeth Community Hub are helping local people access healthy, nutritious food in dignified ways."
Polbeth Community Hub Manager, Errin Anderson said: "The HUB was created to support the local community to bring about social change and empower local citizens to improve the quality of life within the local area. We provide a number of services, such as a community fridge and shop, access to free sanitary products along with an advisor who can help families claim benefit entitlement, support them with budgeting and help with debt. "Earlier this year, a UK Government report stated that food insecurity is a growing and significant issue across the UK with figures showing that levels are among the worst, if not the worse, in Europe, especially for children. In June this year, West Lothian Council and NHS Lothian produced their first Local Child Poverty Action Plan and now partners are looking to work together to develop a plan to tackle food insecurity and create community food hubs.
The council is now investing a further £150,000 of funding to help reduce food insecurity locally, create a local food network and work with the third sector to move from crisis intervention to longer term intervention. Councillor Andrew McGuire, who Chairs the West Lothian Anti-Poverty Task Force Group added: "It can be a very complex issue but it's something we are committed to tackling. Many of the levers for reducing poverty lie with the Scottish Government and UK Government but the council is not sitting back and we have a range of services which are supporting households that need some extra help. "We aim to build upon the work with our partners locally and there's a willingness to share resources, form better networks, reduce waste and make projects to tackle food poverty more sustainable.
"Council funding will help to develop a targeted response and help local people, who are in desperate need, to access food more easily."