Communities could be encouraged to grow their own food as part of a strategy to ensure no one in Aberdeen goes hungry due to poverty.
The Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP), created by the city’s Community Planning Partnership, has set ambitious targets of eliminating food poverty in the city by 2026.
The move comes as a recent survey of Aberdeen residents revealed “alarming” figures that 8% of respondents felt there was a time during the last 12 months when they were worried they would not have enough to eat, with 3% reporting their household had run out of food at some time over the last year.
The partnership, which is made up of representatives from organisations including Aberdeen City Council, Police Scotland and NHS Grampian, has compiled the document as part of a 10-year vision to work with communities to improve their areas and reduce poverty.
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing admitted the scheme’s targets were “ambitious” but added they “needed to be”.
She said: “If we’re really to close the gap and reduce poverty in the city then we need to be aiming really high.
“The LOIP is actually a community planning partnership plan so the council is only one part of that to achieve the target.”
Ms Laing said the local authority has had “great success” in expanding food-growing initiatives, including in the city’s schools.
She added: “I think Aberdeen has shown leadership around the anti-poverty strategy and also in some of the initiatives we’ve got within the city.
“One of the initiatives that has been really successful is the ‘food and fun’ sessions which are run in the school holidays for children who have struggled for food because of a lack of money in their families.
“We’re providing not just meals but also activities as well.
“Tackling food poverty is connected to the wider poverty issues but also about us trying to make sure we give people the ability to move into work.”
To help achieve their ambitions, the plan seeks to increase local food-growing initiatives and improve access to community pantries by co-ordinating the efforts of multiple groups and volunteers.
Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE) has more than 100 people coming to its foodbank every day to pick up an emergency food parcel.
Dave Simmers, the charity’s chief executive, said the target is an “admirable aspiration” but added unless changes are made to welfare reforms then achieving that is “at best a challenge and at worst untenable”.
He added: “It’s an admirable aspiration we should aim for but the challenge is to achieve that given welfare reforms, which makes it incredibly difficult to achieve.
“Things like Universal Credit are having such an impact on beneficiaries. Unless there’s a change in the welfare system then achieving that is at best a challenge and at worst untenable.
“I think local authorities and others have got to set these targets and it’s right to do that.”
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Mr Simmers added the charity is planning to open a community pantry on its Poynernook Road site, with aspirations for this to be part of a series across the city.
It follows Woodside-based charity Fersands and Fountain Community Project, which is working in partnership with CFINE and Fareshare to offer a “first for Scotland” scheme – Your Woodside Pantry.
The scheme, which is set to begin next month, offers the chance for residents to sign up to an annual membership allowing them to shop for food at a discounted price.
Members will be required to pay £3 a year to shop weekly at the centre at just £2.50 for 10 items.
Claire Whyte, community worker at the project, said community pantries can be more accessible to people as it “takes away the stigma” associated with attending foodbanks.
She added: “Some foodbanks have restrictions where you can only come in once a fortnight.
“With the pantries you will be able to come once a week and it’s open to all – it’s not means tested.
“The one we’re starting is starting small but we want it to be open to all.”
Ms Whyte said the target to eliminate food poverty was a “big statement to make”.
But she added: “It’s a positive step but I do think there’s a long way to go.”
Members of Aberdeen City Council’s strategic commissioning committee will be asked to approve the revised plan when they meet on Tuesday.