'I HOPE everyone has had a good Easter weekend. Like many holidays, Easter has a huge association with food. It marks the end of the fasting period for those who have given things up for Lent, there are hot cross buns, roast lamb, Simnel cakes, and, of course, eggs – boiled eggs, rolled eggs, and lots of chocolate eggs.

For some families, sadly, it is not only special holiday foods that are out of reach as the holidays bring an added food headache with the added expense of having to provide lunches for children who normally receive free school meals.

So, I think it is absolutely brilliant that Fife Council have been running a £400,000 trial programme that saw lunches served in Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly through the holiday period that has just come to an end and, after evaluating the feedback, will be rolled out to continue the trial during the summer holidays across the whole of Fife.

I whole-heartedly commend this initiative and I want to thank those who have made it possible. Indeed, I want to thank all of those who give of their time and energy, week in, week out, at Food Banks and community cafes and all sorts of other projects to help struggling families put food on the table.

Those who carry out such voluntary work are heroes and heroines, often unsung, but quietly appreciated, they keep hope alive for a better society and a better future. They are stalwarts who, on a daily basis, in a number of ways, make such a difference to their communities and to other people’s lives.

The question, of course, is why such efforts are necessary in 21st century Scotland. We are a rich society but there is far, far, too much inequality I the way in which wealth is distributed.

I want to call time on Tory austerity. And that is why I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has ambitious targets to reduce child poverty in Scotland and is taking positive steps to help achieve those targets.

Some of those steps are targeted directly at individual children such as the new payments that are being introduced to recognise the increased costs faced by families at particular stages of a child’s life, such as starting school.

Other steps are more about taking a wider look at policies which help tackle the causes rather than simply the impact of deep seated poverty and inequality, so I am pleased that plans are well in hand for the appointment of the new Poverty and Inequality Commission that will be formally set up from July 2019.

The Commission’s Chair, Bill Scott, and his team have a massively important job ahead of them and I wish them every success'.