Charity warns summer could be '˜busiest yet' for Scottish food banks

With the absence of breakfast clubs and free pupil lunches, the school holidays can be a difficult period for families struggling to get by.

The Trussell Trust said it expected this summer to be one of the busiest ever for Scottish food banks. Picture: Neil Hanna

The Trussell Trust announced today it expected record numbers of hungry Scottish children will require emergency food services this summer.

Newly released data from the charity revealed food bank distributions to children rose by 20 per cent in 2017 on the previous year.

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The trust is now appealing to the public for increased donations, after it received 16 per cent less in donations than it distributed last July and August - amounting to a 35 tonne deficit of supplies.

During this period the network provided three day emergency food supplies to 8,427 Scottish children, with nearly a third of all meals distributed going to youngsters.

While the use of food banks during the holidays rose across the UK, Scotland bucked the trend, with a small decrease of less than one per cent in July and August.

But the trust’s director of operations Samantha Shipley warned that the 20 per cent overall rise was “deeply concerning”.

She added: “This summer may be the busiest yet for Scottish food banks”.

The organisation, which rusn 428 food banks across the UK, previously found that the absence of school dinners costs families an average of £30-40 per child each week.

Staff at the trust’s food bank in East Lothian believe the picture is more complex. While they report a spike in those using their services as children returned to school in August, they expect that parents may have been supplementing additional food costs with their school uniform grant. The money for uniforms then had to be found elsewhere.

Manager Peter Dicker said the cost of extra meals compounded upon the next month’s finances for some families.

“Consequently, when the kids had gone back to school, parents didn’t have enough money,” he added.

“They’d used their benefits to buy the school uniforms so they were coming to the food banks before they got their next benefit cheque.”

Last year, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Bruce Adamson, declared that children deprived of food during the school break is a “significant human rights issue for Scotland”.

Ms Shipley urged the government to work upon a more viable long-term solution, saying, “food banks cannot, and must not, be a long term to solution to hunger at any time of year...Our benefits system can, and must, act as an anchor to protect people from being pulled into poverty”.

Labour MSP Elaine Smith said: “These shock figures must send a clear message to governments in Holyrood and Westminster - it is time to make the ending of poverty the priority.”

Communities secretary Aileen Campbell claimed that “countless organisations have shown how the rise in the use of food banks is linked directly to the UK Government’s welfare cuts and benefit sanctions.”

She added that continuous cuts, exacerbated by the “chaotic introduction and fundamental flaws of Universal Credit” were contributing to the rise of food bank use.

“This is in addition to the £125m we expect to invest in 2018-19 to help protect people from the worst impacts of UK Government welfare cuts,” she said.