Western Isles Citizens Advice Service is urging local people to take part in a national survey on issues relating to food, including cost, choice, access and quality.

The Food on the Table survey will run for the next month. It is available online at www.cas.org.uk/foodonthetable and paper copies will also be available at the local Citizens Advice Bureau offices in Stornoway, Tarbert, Balivanich and Castlebay.

A spokesperson for the Western Isles Citizens Advice Service says,“The people who come through our doors often talk about how hard it can be for them to put food on the table. Cost is certainly a major issue for many, but it is not the only one. We also hear from people who find it hard to access good quality food in the local shops.

“The Scottish CAB network is running this national survey, and I want to make sure that those residing in the Western Isles form a big part of the total responses. The results will be used to inform government ministers and help shape future policy on food, so it would be a shame if people here missed out on their chance to have their say.

“So we are asking everyone in the Western Isles to complete this short survey. We want to hear from people of all backgrounds and sections of society. It only takes a few minutes and you don’t have to give your name, but the more responses we get the stronger our voice will be.”

The Food on the Table survey can be completed online at www.cas.org.uk/foodonthetableand you can also get a paper copy from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Western Isles Citizens Advice Bureau manager Roddy Nicolson said: “We know there is an issue about food in the Western Isles – demonstrated by the fact that we have had a food bank in Stornoway for several years and that there is now one serving Uist and Barra too. If people are struggling financially, for whatever reason, it will have an impact on what they eat and how much they eat.

“Food poverty will get worse with the roll-out of Universal Credit from next Wednesday (September 22nd) which rolls six benefits into one. We’re anticipating significant impacts from that and Western Isles staff have had additional training from the Child Poverty Action Group in Glasgow to enable us to cope with additional issues that people bring us.

“Where food choice, availability and price is concerned, in some ways we are more fortunate in Stornoway, where we have three supermarkets. But the further south you go and the further into rural areas the worse that choice and availability gets. It’s also known that fuel gets more expensive further from Stornoway and there is the classic problem of people choosing between heating or eating.

“We hope to have a big uptake in this survey from island people, to make sure the island experience is represented.”

A survey carried out for Citizens Advice Scotland in April found that 33% of Scots had gone without food in the past year due to lack of money (28% said this had happened between 1 and 6 times, and 5% said it had happened more than 6 times).

The same survey also found that 71% of Scots were concerned about Brexit, and of these 65% cited the cost of food and other essentials as a concern; 33% also cited the availability and choice of fresh food.   

This survey was carried out by Progressive and 2,010 Scots were surveyed, weighted to ensure it was a representative sample.