How many more older people do we need to see suffering from malnutrition before we realise that more meaningful action is needed to stop them from falling ill?

I am often met with looks of astonishment when I share that there are over-65s in Scotland for whom it’s a daily reality that all they are able to get to eat are plain biscuits.

As a progressive nation, this is not just something that we should have a moral obligation to tackle. It should be a legal one too.

And our MSPs have an opportunity to make this happen - ensuring that the basic human need for access to food becomes a legally-enforceable human right, as it is in a number of other countries.

The chance to make that happen is through Scotland’s proposed new Human Rights Bill, currently out for consultation.

Among the opportunities it offers is the chance to do more to stop our older people sliding into malnutrition - improving their health and wellbeing, as well as easing strains on our stretched health and social care services.

At Food Train, we are asking people to ensure this chance is not lost and to make ministers aware of the need for action.

For 28 years, we have been helping older people to live well and eat well in their own homes, tackling malnutrition and loneliness. Among the ways we do that is through our shopping delivery service. We also create opportunities where our members can gather to eat and meet.

The efforts of our volunteers and staff would, however, be greatly enhanced if the right to food were a legal one, obliging authorities to ensure that food is accessible - financially and geographically - and that it is nutritious, safe and culturally appropriate.

This is not about obliging the Government to hand out free food. It’s about the right to feed oneself - that every household either has the means to produce or buy its own food, and enough of it. And it’s the latter where Food Train makes food accessible.

The coronavirus pandemic - where our volunteers were a lifeline amid unprecedented calls for support to ensure older people did not go without supplies - emphasised why enshrining the right to food in Scots law is vital.

The British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, estimates one in 10 people in the UK over the age of 65 are malnourished or at risk of suffering from preventable malnutrition. This equates to about 103,000 people in Scotland. That’s heartbreaking.

Such severe food insecurity affects physical health, including weight loss, dizziness, and stomach problems. This highlights not only a human rights failure but the regression of the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. It’s time to recognise and tackle this.

In modern Scotland, we should strive for a future free from hunger for people of all ages. The Human Rights Bill consultation is an opportunity to show the need to make that happen. You can help to make the case by having your say in it.

Tilly Robinson-Miles is Policy and Parliamentary Engagement Manager at Food Train