THE chair of Helensburgh and Lomond's food bank has urged the Scottish and UK governments to "take decisive action" to tackle the underlying causes of rising food bank use.

Mary McGinley's comments came as new figures showed a 22 per cent increase in food package distribution across Scotland.

Figures released by 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 (IFAN) an average of more than 1,000 emergency food parcels were handed out across the country every single day between April 2018 and September 2019.

They said 596,472 emergency food parcels were distributed by Scottish charities during the 18-month period.

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In Argyll and Bute, the comparative number has risen by almost a fifth, with five independent food bank venues across the region, including the Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank, collectively giving out 8,509 three-day emergency packages.

Mrs McGinley, the Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank’s chair, said: “Continued inadequate and insecure incomes make this continued rise in food parcels sadly predictable.

“While it is heartening that people are willing to donate and to volunteer at food banks, there should not be a system which is driving this year-on-year increase in demand.

“No one in Scotland should be forced to turn to a food bank to put a meal on the table.

“The Scottish and UK governments must take decisive action to end the need for food banks by ensuring people have the reliable incomes they need from social security and decent wages.

“Politicians must address the underlying causes of rising food bank use rather than relying on charitable organisations and goodwill to respond to food poverty.”

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Commenting on the findings from independent food banks and the Trussell Trust, Margaret MacLachlan, a project manager at A Menu For Change, 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.

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"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."

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