Access to food and innovative solutions to achieve it are key challenges.
Food is hugely emotive, we all need it to survive and we spend lots of time thinking and talking about food and eating, it’s a universal language that connects us all. But with an estimated 1 in 10 older people in Scotland experiencing or at risk of malnutrition and dehydration (around 90,000), we need to consider what help is out there and why such a problem exists.
The human cost of malnutrition is harrowing to both the individual and those that care for them and the financial pressure it places on health and social care is colossal. However, recent reports show a limited patchwork of small poorly funded community led services, no central lead on food within Health or Social Work, and a postcode lottery of access and charges (1).
Food access is excluded from the provisions of Free Personal & Nursing Care at Home, but how can a carer prepare your breakfast, lunch or dinner if there is no food in the house? There are many factors linked to malnutrition but physical access to food is the most significant and yet also the easiest to solve.
The figures are frightening, but the problem is not new and it’s getting steadily worse as our older population grows. In the early 1990s in Dumfries, a group of dynamic and driven older people were working together to address the food access problems faced by their friends and neighbours. And so Food Train was born, a simple yet highly practical charitable social enterprise supporting local older people who needed help with their weekly grocery shop. A partnership of local volunteers and supermarkets created a reliable platform for those most in need to have vital fresh food delivered every week.
- Food Train now supports over 1,400 older people across 6 regions of Scotland in partnership with a large cross sector of grocery stores
- In the last 12 months alone 30,712 vital deliveries of fresh food have reached older people in need, spending £1.22 million on groceries of their choice
- An army of over 600 dedicated volunteers provide not only regular food but much needed friendship, social contact and signposting to other help and services
- 78% of Food Train customers are aged 75, over 60% said Food Train helps them stay in their own home and 91% said they would find it difficult or be unable to get food without Food Train
Food Train’s elderly founders can be proud of the lasting legacy they have created for older people in Scotland but would be sad to see the scale of food access and malnutrition problems today. Despite the immense importance of food, it has been slow to appear in the Scottish Government’s Reshaping Care for Older People guidance and little progress had been seen through the Access and Affordability element of Recipe for Success (Scotland’s National Food & Drink Policy).
To help change all that, Food Train and other passionate partners, including the Scottish Government, are part of a new group, the Scottish Older People’s Food Task Force, who are committed to tackling food poverty, food access, malnutrition and dehydration for the 90,000 older people affected. If you can help us with this challenge or you’d like Food Train to help with food access for older people in your area, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about Food Train go to www.thefoodtrain.co.uk