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Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have been warned she must act now after damning new figures showed the number of food parcels distributed by poverty charities to children in Scotland has skyrocketed since 2017. Food poverty organisation Trussell Trust has released mid-year statistics that reveal the total number of food parcels handed out over the last five years has surged 65 percent, while food distributed to children has jumped by 77 percent.
The latest numbers for April to September of this year compare the number of parcels delivered from the same six-month period in 2017.
It showed 76,593 food parcels were given to adults in Scotland while just under half of that number (39,780) were distributed to children, compared to 48,116 and 22,413 in the same period five years ago.
The figures have triggered a stinging attack against the Ms Sturgeon’s Government from Scottish Labour, who want the right to food enshrined in the country’s law to curb the reliance on food banks.
Rhoda Grant, the Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, is planning to bring a Member’s Bill before the Scottish Parliament in a matter of weeks to highlight the importance for a statutory right to food in Scottish law.
The ruling SNP and Greens backed the policy in their 2021 Scottish election manifesto but Labour has claimed both parties voted against the attempt to introduce a Right to Food during the Good Food Nation Bill.
Ms Grant accused the SNP-Green Government of “kicking the can down the line” and warned there is “no more time to delay” in embedding the right to food into Scottish law.
She said: “As the cost-of-living piles pressure on households, more and more Scots are being forced to turn to food banks. Families are at breaking point and parents are struggling to feed their children.
“It is more urgent than ever that we enshrine people’s right to food in Scots law, but the SNP-Green government keep kicking the can down the line.
“There is no more time to delay – this year must be the year we embed the right to food in law at last.”
The Scottish Government insisted it is “doing everything we can to help households” during the cost of living crisis but claimed it is being subjected to “limited powers”.
A spokesperson added the Government remains committed to incorporating a right to adequate food into Scottish law. The proposals will be formally consulted upon in 2023.
They said: “We are very concerned about the hardship people are facing as a result of the cost-of-living crisis. We are doing everything we can to help households, within the limited powers we have.
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“In this financial year we have allocated around £3 billion in a range of measures which will help mitigate the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis on households, of which £1 billion is for support only available in Scotland and not elsewhere in the UK, for example Scottish Child Payment and Child Winter Heating Assistance.
“We will continue to urge the UK Government to use all the powers at its disposal to tackle this cost-of-living crisis on the scale required.
“Our draft plan on ending the need for food banks received strong public support when we consulted on it earlier in the year. We will publish a final version later this winter.
“We are committed to incorporating a right to adequate food into Scots law in our forthcoming Human Rights Bill and we will consult formally on our proposals in 2023.”
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