DEMAND for emergency food parcels in Helensburgh and Lomond rose by almost a third during lockdown.

Around 1,200 food bags were handed out between February and July this year, peaking at 259 during April alone, compared to 195 in February, before the lockdown.

The figures released by the area’s food bank also show a year-on-year increase of nearly a quarter, with more than 950 bags handed out in the six-month period from February 1 to July 31, 2019.

According to data gathered by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), which supports nearly 400 independent food banks across the UK, including Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank, demand for emergency supplies has more than doubled across Scotland during the lockdown.

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The number of parcels distributed throughout the country in July was 108 per cent higher than during the same month last year, as 70 independent food banks across 20 local authorities gave out at least 182,863 emergency food packages between February and July 2020.

Each bag issued by the Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank contains enough food for five to six days per person.

Thanking the Helensburgh and Lomond community for their continued donations, as well as the volunteers who have worked throughout lockdown, Mary McGinley, chair of the organisation, said: “These figures again show that an ever-increasing number of people in Scotland continue to live in poverty experiencing food insecurity.

“Despite the Scottish Government increasing the budget for Scottish Welfare crisis grants, too many people still had to turn to food banks to feed themselves and their families.

“Going forward, more needs to be done to address the underlying cause of food insecurity and poverty in our communities.

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“We are all aware that food prices in some areas have significantly risen, those on low pay, on zero-hour contracts with insecure employment or relying on benefits do not have enough income to spend more on food.

“This is particularly an issue for those living in rural and island communities and areas where there are no low budget grocery stores and food prices are high.

“As unemployment continues to rise and more people are finding themselves relying on benefits, it is time that benefit payments were increased to bring them into line with the true cost of living.”

Sabine Goodwin, IFAN coordinator, said: “The writing is on the wall.

“Even more people are going to be thrown into financial crisis in the coming months and food banks cannot continue to pick up the pieces of a broken benefit system and insufficient wages.

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“The Scottish and UK Governments as well as local authorities must do all they can to prioritise access to ‘cash first’ solutions for people unable to afford food.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has now invested over £110 million in responding to food insecurity as a result of the pandemic.

“Scotland is unique across the UK in taking a ‘cash-first’ (direct financial transfer) approach to tackling food insecurity.

“That is why we have more than doubled the national budget for the Scottish Welfare Fund and have given local authorities the flexibility to provide their allocation of food and other essentials funding as cash where appropriate.

“In addition to continued support for low income families through Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods, we have recently confirmed that the Scottish Child Payment which will directly tackle child poverty will open to applications in November, with first payments made from the end of February.”

*A drop-in service is available at Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank; no referral is necessary.

The food bank is open every Thursday evening from 6pm until 8pm and on a Monday and a Friday morning from 10am until 12pm at the Red Cross Hall in East Princes Street for those who live in the Helensburgh or Cardross areas.

If you live in Rosneath there is a drop-in session at the Howie Pavilion from 1pm until 3pm on a Wednesday.

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