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The Dignity Project

With support from the Scottish Government’s Fair Food Transformation Fund, Nourish Scotland and the Poverty Truth Commission undertook a year-long project that aimed to explore and understand better how placing dignity at the heart of community food provision can support a transition away from emergency food aid as a primary response to food insecurity.

Between November 2016 and October 2017, the project team worked closely with people with lived experience of food insecurity, staff and volunteers involved in community food providers – including food banks – to explore what dignity means in practice.

The project partners were clear that communities cannot be held responsible for, or bear the disproportionate burden of, food insecurity in Scotland. At the same time, we recognise that community-based initiatives are well-placed to respond to current crises and increase dignified access to food in local areas.


An estimated 20-27% of people in Scotland currently experience household food insecurity.  One of the many manifestations of this has been the steadily increasing number of emergency food parcels given out by food banks.

In 2015 Scottish Ministers appointed an Independent Working Group on Food Poverty tasked to consider the issues related to food poverty and make recommendations to the Scottish Government on future actions. In their 2016 report, Dignity: Ending Hunger Together in Scotland, the Working Group identified the following four Dignity Principles to guide the design and implementation of dignified responses to food insecurity:

  1. Involve in decision-making people with direct experience.
  2. Recognise the social value of food.
  3. Provide opportunities to contribute.
  4. Leave people with the power to choose.

The Scottish Government’s acceptance of the recommendations in the report, and commitment to place ‘dignity’ at the centre of the design and delivery of responses to food insecurity (instead of, for example, ‘feeding people in need’) created a welcome opportunity for all those involved in the response to reflect on supporting people beyond charitable, emergency provision.

The Dignity Project aimed to explore and understand better the practical ways that community organisations and practitioners could bring the Dignity Principles into practice.


Project outcomes

The Dignity Project highlighted the importance of community food providers providing emotional and practical support to people experiencing food insecurity, as well as inclusive spaces for people in the community to access, share and enjoy food, regardless of their circumstances.

Working closely with, and visiting, diverse community food providers across Scotland, the project team developed:

  • a set of ‘Dignity Principles in Practice’ as a way for community food providers to reflect on the design and delivery of their work, to complement the Dignity Principles identified by the Independent Working Group.
  • tools and guidance for the community food sector to put these principles into practice – including a range of case studies and reflective exercises, and;
  • specific guidance for emergency food providers to develop alternative approaches to food insecurity and transition away from emergency food aid.

We’re currently working to make these resources accessible online  – watch this space!

We’re also planning to build on this strand of work in 2018 and continue to focus on practice development with emergency food providers and the community food sector more widely.

If you have any questions about our work on Dignity or want to be involved, please e-mail Chelsea Marshall (chelsea @ and/or Olga Bloemen (olga @


Related projects & campaigns

The Dignity Project is part of the wider campaign on taking a right-based approach to food. You can find more information about Nourish’s work on this here and can sign up to receive updates about the Right to Food campaign including how to get involved here.

We’re also involved in the new ‘A Menu for Change’ partnership project with Oxfam Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland and The Poverty Alliance, which seeks to evolve the response to food poverty in Scotland from food banks to tackling the underlying causes. You can find more information here.


We gratefully acknowledge the on-going support provided by the Scottish Government’s Fair Food Transformation Fund, which enables Nourish and the Poverty Truth Commission to undertake this project.

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