HALF a million – that’s the number of emergency grocery parcels distributed by Scotland’s food banks within just 18 months, according to new figures.

The number, revealed today by a coalition of charities, takes in both the Trussell Trust network and 84 independent food banks.

According to the data, the non-affiliated organisations gave out almost 221,600 emergency three-day supply packages between April 2017 and September 2018.

READ MORE: Tears at the food bank, an everyday struggle for Scots families

Meanwhile, the Trussell Trust’s 118-strong network distributed 258,600 more during the same time period, which covers from April 2017 until September 2018.

Taken together, this means at least 480,600 food parcels were supplied to Scots that were unable to cover meal costs during that time.

However, the true figure is thought to be even higher as a small number of independent operations were unable to provide figures covering their contribution to the fight against poverty.

Campaigners from A Menu for Change – a partnership project run by Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Nourish Scotland, Oxfam Scotland and the Poverty Alliance – are now calling on the Scottish Government to use its new social security powers to help prevent people being pushed further below the breadline.

Ministers have promised to bring in a new income supplement by 2022.

However, campaigners say those facing hardship can’t afford to wait three years.

Dr Mary Anne MacLeod, research and policy officer at A Menu for Change, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, said: “These figures are truly shameful in rich Scotland and they should make for deeply uncomfortable reading for our political leaders: the problem of rising levels of hunger in Scotland is much worse than previously known.

“The Scottish Government should be commended for its plans to help families put food on the table through the new income supplement, but promises to help people in three years’ time are of little comfort to parents whose cupboards are empty right now.

“If the Scottish Government wants to reduce the number of people facing hunger, it must urgently bring forward its plans to top-up the incomes of Scotland’s poorest families from 2022.”

Joyce Leggate, who chairs the Kirkcaldy food bank in Fife, said: “Every day in Kirkcaldy, we meet people who are being driven to our doors because of problems with the benefits system.

“A third of the food parcels we give out go to families with children – the innocent victims of a system which is pushing people into debt, despair and poverty.

“We hope that today’s figures shine a light on the previously hidden role independent food banks are playing in picking up the pieces of a failing social safety net, and spur policy makers into taking decisive action to stop food banks like ours from becoming entrenched in Scottish society.”