Food banks in Scotland are giving out more than 1000 emergency food parcels on average every day as more people reach “crisis point”, a group of charities has warned.
They said 596,472 emergency food parcels were distributed by Scottish charities between April 2018 and September 2019, a 22% rise compared to the previous 18 months.
The organisations warned the figures represent the “tip of the iceberg” for those struggling to buy food or feed their family as they called on UK and Scottish ministers to do more to tackle poverty.
A Menu for Change – a partnership between Oxfam Scotland, Nourish Scotland, the Poverty Alliance and the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland – and the Independent Food Aid Network said the UK Government must ensure people have “sustainable and secure incomes”.
Demanding a raft of policy changes, including raising the minimum wage to match the real living wage and benefit increases in line with inflation, the coalition of charities also urged Scottish ministers to use devolved powers to increase welfare spending.
The “deeply troubling” food parcel figures reveal a grim picture of rising levels of food insecurity in Scotland”, according to Margaret MacLachlan, a project manager at A Menu for Change.
Commenting on the findings from independent food banks and the Trussell Trust, she said: “As we start a new decade, the relentless pressures forcing people to need emergency food aid continues.
“A weakened social security system, low pay and insecure work are tightening the grip of poverty and forcing people to crisis point.
“The long-term solution to food insecurity is not food banks, it is ensuring people have secure and reliable incomes.
“In 2020, we must do more to ensure we can consign food banks to the history books.”
She added: “Today’s statistics are shocking but experts also warn that data on food parcel distribution only provides a partial picture of the number of Scots struggling to put food on the table, with many choosing to skip meals rather than use a food bank.
“Recent Scottish Government statistics revealed nearly one in 10 people in Scotland were worried about running out of food in 2018.
“The new UK Government must act urgently to fix Universal Credit and uprate working-age benefits but Scottish ministers can and should act too by increasing the Scottish Welfare Fund, which has faced a real-terms cut in its budget since 2013.
“No-one in rich Scotland should run out of money to buy food and political leaders must act now to prevent more people being dragged into poverty.”
Mary McGinley, from Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank, said: “Today’s figures shine a light on the essential role independent food banks play in offering emergency help to those who are no longer being supported by the social security safety net which isn’t strong enough to provide protection to those who need it.
“While it is heartening that people are willing to donate to and volunteer at food banks, there is a real need for change.
“There should not be a system which is driving this year-on-year increase in demand.
“It is not right that people should need to go to a food bank to put a meal on the table.”