A “HARROWING” need for foodbanks has seen demand go up by 20 per cent in recent months, charity workers have warned.

West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare (WDCF) said they were seeing crippling levels of destitution from families in need across the area.

It comes as new national figures revealed last week found Scottish foodbanks are giving out more than 1,000 emergency food parcels every day.

WDCF was included in the figures compiled by Independent Food Aid Network, and told the Reporter that demand for their toybank at Christmas jumped 43 per cent last year to nearly 1,000.

One parent recently told the charity their children only got hot meals at school as rising food prices and energy bills clash with stagnant benefit rates and wages.

Clair Coyle, trustee at WDCF, said: “What we saw was really harrowing in the last three months of 2019. We have had four foodbanks in 2020 so far – and they’ve been extremely busy.

“We have been seeing an indication of Universal Credit causing this, but the last few months we are feeling people generally don’t have enough money to cover everything in the week.

“We are horrified by what we are hearing. Something needs to be done quickly, especially for those with children.”

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 596,472 emergency food parcels were distributed by Scottish charities between April 2018 and September 2019 – a 22 per cent 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.

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: “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 foodbanks, it is ensuring people have secure and reliable incomes.

“In 2020, we must do more to ensure we can consign foodbanks to the history books.”

She added: “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: The 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.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Foodbank use has been directly linked to UK Government welfare cuts, benefit sanctions and the flawed Universal Credit. To tackle this we invested more than £1.4 billion in support for low income households in 2018-19, including more than £100 million to mitigate the worst impacts of UK Government welfare cuts.

“This includes our Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) which is a vital lifeline for people facing times of crisis. Since its introduction in April 2013, nearly £210 million has been paid out from the SWF to help over 347,000 individual households across Scotland. Our £3.5 million Fair Food Fund is supporting communities to respond to food insecurity in a way that promotes dignity and help them move away from charitable food aid as a primary response.”