Firefighter inspired new food voucher scheme to help with the cost of living

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A supermarket in Montrose in Angus will trial a new food voucher scheme that was inspired by a firefighter who wanted to help families with the cost of living.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) Watch Commander Michael Cassie brought local partner agencies together to come up with an alternative option to food banks which often have limited opening hours.

The scheme means that instead of buying items for the food bank collection, shoppers can purchase a voucher at a price they can afford. The voucher is then given to a local charity to redistribute to someone who needs it. Goods can then be paid for with the voucher at the checkout.

The Community Together Partnership at Tesco, Montrose, which launched at the beginning of June, is being supported by Angus Council, which has provided a £2,000 grant to get this unique initiative up and running.

Watch Commander Michael Cassie explains why he wanted to make the process easier. He said: “This all started when I was in a supermarket at a weekend and the family in front of me in the queue didn’t have enough money to cover the cost of their food and so I offered to help.

“I wanted to make it easier for people to help others, as well as find a solution for those who can’t make it along to their local food bank during opening hours.”

Councillor Bill Duff of Angus Council said: “I got involved late last year, working with partners and the community to fine tune how the initiative would work. We know that a significant number of households are experiencing hardship due to rising living costs and this targeted support will help those families most in need. It removes the stigma families who’re struggling to afford food often face while giving them more choice in picking what food they want and need, rather than being restricted by what’s on offer.

“It’s great to see partners and the community working together for such a worthwhile cause and I’m pleased the council could help by providing £2,000 to kick start the scheme. We hope it will be rolled out to other supermarkets in the future.”

Area Commander Scott Gibson, SFRS Local Senior Officer for Perth, Kinross, Angus and Dundee, said: “Improving people’s lives and the safety and wellbeing of the communities we serve is at our core.

"Our role will always be to respond to fires and other emergency incidents but we do so much more than that.

"Collaborative working with our partners is vital and this project, that has been driven by Watch Commander Michael Cassie, is a really positive example of this."

To promote healthy eating, recipe cards for simple and nutritious meals will be given out with the voucher, along with the estimated cost of ingredients. 

The user can buy food as well as products like nappies, baby milk powder and pet food. Alcohol and tobacco goods cannot be purchased using these vouchers.

Mary Urquhart from Mandown Project said: "This partnership shows that when everyone pulls together we can make things happen for the better in our community.

"The vouchers will allow people in need to do their own shopping instead of being given items that might not be used."

Mairi Gougeon MSP said: "This new approach will help people who are struggling with their food bills.  It’s innovative and inspiring and I commend the work that Michael Cassie, local Cllr Bill Duff, Angus Council and Mary Urquhart of the Mandown Project have done in getting it to this stage.

“The Community Together Partnership at Tesco in Montrose will improve people’s lives but only with the support of the public and I would urge people to look out for the information boards next time they are in the store."

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