THE number of people using the Helensburgh and Lomond food bank during the festive period has risen by more than 40 per cent compared to the previous year.

Figures released by volunteers at the food bank – which operates at the British Red Cross Centre in East Princes Street and in Rosneath – illustrate the worrying growth in food poverty in the area.

A total of 326 people – 246 adults and 80 children – were supported during December 2018, compared to 230 in the same month of 2017.

The service handed out 210 food bags in December, up from 153 in the same month the previous year.

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While volunteers have praised the efforts of local community groups, shops and the general public in raising funds and providing much-needed supplies, they insist that the increasing reliance on the service leaves a bad taste.

Mary McGinley, chairman of the food bank, said: “While we are fortunate to have such huge support from the local community, it would be even better if there was no need for a food bank and that people had sufficient income to be able to buy their own food rather than relying on tins and dried food supplies from a food bank.

“It’s good that the local community recognises the need in our midst and that they are willing to help those in the community who find themselves in a crisis.

“However, at the same time it is sad that it is necessary.

“More needs to be done to address food insecurity to ensure that people don't have to turn to food banks to meet such a basic need.

"We are fortunate to have a great team of volunteers and it is a humbling experience to listen to those who find themselves in a crisis that any of us might find ourselves in. Many of us are only one pay day away from needing similar support."

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Statistics for December 2018 included 72 Christmas special bags and 36 New Year specials, as many couples and families struggled to cope with the demands of the holiday season.

In total, 801 people used the food bank in the last quarter of 2018, while more than 2,700 people were supported throughout the whole year.

It is estimated that there are now around 200 food banks in total throughout Scotland, five of which are in Argyll and Bute, according to research by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) – including 90 independent centres and more than 100 operated by the Trussell Trust charity.

Mary said that single people, couples, families and pensioners have regularly turned to the food bank since it was set up in 2014.

Despite the increase in demand, stock levels are said to be good and the 40 volunteers who help run the food bank are coping so far.

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However, Mary said the success of the operation is not based on numbers.

She added: "In common with other food banks across Scotland we have seen a year on year increase in the numbers of people requesting food.

"Rather than expanding to meet the increased demand we would like to find ways of reducing the need for people to come to food banks.

"In addition to providing food we signpost those attending to agencies that may be able to assist with other issues contributing to their lack of food or money.

"We are seeking to improve the availability of advice to clients on key issues which are contributing to food poverty, and we would like to have advisers present at every food bank session to be able to give clients immediate access to a benefits review.

"Other solutions to reduce the need for food banks will require efforts in wider society to ensure people are paid the real living wage and that fuel poverty is addressed."

To find out more about volunteering opportunities or how to donate, visit or search for @helensburghandlomondfoodbank on Facebook.