Cash First approaches aim to get money into people’s pockets to reduce or eradicate the need for emergency food aid.

Independent Food Aid Network define this as addressing the root causes of poverty, meaning everyone in the UK could afford to buy adequate, healthy and nutritious food.

They identify 5 stages of support:

  1. Adequate benefit payments and fair wages
  2. Statutory cash grants
  3. Charitable cash grants
  4. Vouchers
  5. Emergency food parcels

Project Brief

Recognising the contribution of current activity across Glasgow and the valuable learning this offers to the wider community food sector within the city and beyond, we carried out mapping on current Cash First/Money Advice activity across Glasgow’s community food sector, working with researchers to understand how gaps in understanding and service provision are being addressed and to promote the value of Cash First approaches in reducing the need for foodbanks and food aid.  

Research and Mapping Activity

The research captured key data from across the city including: partners involved; target groups; reported impact; identifying gaps, challenges overcome, lessons learned and recommendations.

Our mapping provides an opportunity for Glasgow’s Food Map to be updated with all relevant Cash First activities to promote its importance and serve as a valuable resource to organisations and individuals across Glasgow. 

View the Research Report By Delve Here

GCFN would like to thank Delve, a Glasgow-based and UK-wide Community Development collaborators and consultants for this important piece of work. We hope this study can help other Community Food Initiatives across Scotland develop their own Cash First practices.

Executive Summary

This report details the findings and recommendations of a research project commissioned by the Glasgow Community Food Network and funded by Scottish Government. The research explored how cash-first approaches might be implemented in community food settings. Using qualitative methodologies, community food initiatives (CFIs) across Glasgow were engaged. 

The research aimed to understand the awareness and effectiveness of cash-first supports, such as support to access advice, the Scottish Welfare Fund and vouchers, within CFIs as well as gauge the readiness of the sector to be involved in city-wide planning to develop cash-first as an approach to tackling food insecurity across Glasgow. 

The research found there is varied understanding of the term cash-first and how it might be implemented. Despite this, there was broad support for approaches which put money in people’s pockets as well as evidence of lots of existing cash-first activity already happening in community food settings. Dignity, choice and control were often considered central to cash-first approaches. However, first-hand accounts revealed a panoply of challenges related to funding, resource and overwhelming demand. In addition, the research found challenges related to specific experiences, such as for people seeking asylum, the participation and involvement of people with lived experience of food insecurity and the  provision of existing cash-first supports within CFIs.

There is clearly appetite across the sector to collaborate and work together to develop cash-first approaches in the city, with lots of ideas and suggestions provided by research participants, as detailed in the following recommendations.


1) Increased opportunity for CFIs to develop a shared understanding of cash-first such as through training, workshops, and spaces for conversations

2) Exploration of how cash-first supports might be implemented in CFIs, for example, through the development of a variety of ‘cash-first in action’ profiles or scenarios that reflect the diversity of the sector and the different contexts in which organisations are working.

3) Increased opportunities for CFIs to learn about the drivers of food insecurity and why people may experience income crisis, as well as facilitated opportunities to discuss sector attitudes and beliefs about people who experience food insecurity.

4) Improved and increased participatory mechanisms for people with lived experience of food insecurity to be involved in leading and designing cash-first approaches within CFI settings

5) Citywide engagement with people with No Recourse to Public Funds to understand how specific barriers faced can be overcome through the development and investigation of the recommendations laid out in Spotlight 1

6) Greater clarity from Scottish Government on the responsibilities of different actors in implementing cash-first approaches, including the role of CFIs, the Local Authority, and Scottish Government. 

7) For CFIs to contribute toward a cash-first approach, they need multi-year and unrestricted funding. There also needs to be adequate additional resource provided to the sector for developing and delivering cash-first supports alongside their core services.

8) Place-based and joined up cash-first approaches to be established through the resourced development of local partnerships and networks

The research also Spotlights 4 different project areas of Cash First work from across Glasgow.

Addressing Gaps in Service Provision 

Having identified gaps in service provision, we are currently working with partners including the Glasgow Food Policy Partnership, to explore developments to address such gaps, with this being informed by those most affected, including people with no recourse to public funds.   

Useful Reading & Understanding the Sector

  • What can community food initiatives do to support cash-first approaches to food insecurity? - published Feb 2024 by Public Health Scotland.

    This briefing paper will provide clarity on, raise awareness of, and support use of 'cash first' approaches as the primary response to tackling food insecurity. This will include examples and clarity on how community food initiatives are currently supporting this, ideas on how to join with others locally to further support cash first approaches, and address dignity principles. It is linked to SG policy ambition on ending the need for food banks.

Mark Fitzpatrick is leading on this project. For more info, contact him at [email protected]