VOLUNTEERS at the Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank say December 2019 was the busiest month on record since the organisation was established five years ago.

More than 230 emergency food packages were handed out, along with 52 holiday lunch boxes for school children and 90 Christmas dinner bags.

A comparison of the quarter running from October 1 until December 31, 2019, to the same period a year earlier, revealed an increase in demand of almost one fifth - just under 600 parcels were distributed in the three months ending 2019.

The Advertiser visited the food bank’s Helensburgh facility, at the Red Cross hall in East Princes Street, during the festive period to see first-hand how those involved in the operation are coping with the ever-growing pressures of poverty.

READ MORE: Behind the scenes at Helensburgh's food bank as volunteers gear up for peak Christmas demand

Mary McGinley, the group’s chair, said at the time: “Year-on-year there has been an increase in demand for the food bank.

“We are not doing this because we want to, but because we have to. All sorts of politicians say they are going to fix it but who is actually going to do anything about it?”

After the release of the latest damning figures, Mary reiterated her desire for more help from governing bodies.

She said: “This is further evidence that people on low incomes have insufficient funds to adequately feed themselves and their families.

READ MORE: Helensburgh food bank chair urges 'decisive action' to tackle growing demand

“Recent research shows that low income, benefit changes, single parent households, debt and ill health of a family member result in food insecurity leading to an increased number of people turning to food banks.

“The experience here in Helensburgh and Lomond is mirrored across the country, as illustrated in the recent report from A Menu for Change, which showed a 22 per cent increase when comparing this past 18 months with the previous 18 months.

“Statistics show that this equates to 1,000 people a day, every day, in Scotland relying on a food bank to feed themselves and their families.”

Helensburgh’s MSP Jackie Baillie also slammed the statistics.

She said: “It’s a sad fact that poverty is on the increase and it is shocking that there has been a 16.4 per cent rise in usage of the Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank.

READ MORE: Helensburgh's food bank handed out more than 1,000 school holiday meals to children in poverty

“The food bank does great work locally supporting some of the most vulnerable people across Helensburgh and Lomond and I pay tribute to all of their volunteers.

“The rise in the usage of food banks is a direct consequence of the failed policies of the Tory UK government, but the Scottish Government could do more. For example, the Scottish Welfare Fund, since starting in 2013, has been frozen. This represents a real-terms cut and the result is that many adults and children across Helensburgh and Lomond are having to turn to the food bank for help.

“What people in Helensburgh and Lomond now need to see is action being taken by those in power, that includes both the UK and Scottish Government, to reverse the continuing rise of food bank dependency. It’s a disgrace in 2020 that food bank usage continues to soar.”

READ MORE: Holiday lunch boxes 'essential to fight child hunger', says Helensburgh food bank team

Mary added: “We are very fortunate with the huge support we receive from the local community, who have donated more than ever to the food bank which has allowed us to respond to this increase in demand.

“Our grateful thanks to individuals, families, schools, churches, local businesses and local organisations - there are too many to mention - who have donated and continue to support Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank.”

READ MORE: Catch up with all the latest news headlines from across Helensburgh and Lomond here