One in 10 people living in the poorest areas have run out of food in the last year because of a lack of money, a Scottish Government report has revealed.
While only 1% of people living in the most affluent communities reported having nothing left to eat in the previous 12 months, new figures on food insecurity showed this increased to 10% in the most deprived areas.
Almost a fifth (18%) of those living in the worst off areas had been worried about running out of food over the last year - with 21% of single parents reporting this as a concern.
The findings emerged from the 2017 Scottish Health Survey, which for the first time included questions on food insecurity.
Campaigners said the results “paint a grim picture of hunger across the country”, adding the problem was due to “widespread poverty”.
Almost 3,700 adults and just over 1,600 children across Scotland took part in the 2017 survey - with the findings showing increased consumption of fruit and vegetables.
Almost a quarter (24%) of adults ate the recommended five portions a day, the highest total since 2003 - although the figures also showed that 10% had not consumed any fruit or vegetables on the day prior to the survey being carried out.
But on average adults in Scotland consumed 3.3 portions of fruit or vegetables, against the highest since 2003, with children 2.9 portions on average - the best since 2008.
The survey found 8% of adults had experienced food insecurity in 2017, with this defined as being a worry they would run out of food because of financial problems.
This affected one in five (20%) adults aged 16 to 64 who were living alone, while 7% of Scots reported eating less than they should because of money worries, and one in 25 (4%) running out of food at some point in the last year.
The problem was worst among younger Scots, with 6% of those aged 16 to 44 running out of food, compared to less than 0.5% of those who were 65 or older.
Meanwhile 18% of single adults living alone and single parents said they had eaten less than they should at some point over the past year because of their finances.
The report said there was a “significant association between area deprivation and food insecurity in 2017”, noting that while 18% of those in the most deprived areas had been worried about running out of food at some point in the last 12 months, compared to 3% of people in the least deprived areas.
Charities Oxfam Scotland, the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Nourish Scotland and The Poverty Alliance joined forces to set up A Menu for Change - a project aimed at tackling food insecurity and poverty.
Policy officer Mary Anne MacLeod said: “These statistics paint a grim picture of hunger across the country. Given Scotland isn’t facing a food shortage, this is clearly a problem of widespread poverty.
“The figures show 16 to 44 year olds are most likely to be going hungry. We know low wages, zero-hour contracts, frozen benefit levels and the introduction of Universal Credit are pushing more and more people to the brink.
“When so many people are struggling to make ends meet you know something has gone badly wrong with the system.
“That’s why our political leaders must urgently fix the system, in our rich country no-one should be constantly worrying about how they’re going to feed their kids. We can do better than that. Everyone should be able to access the money they need to put food on the table.”