THE empty shelves tell their own bleak story. The few tins still standing only serve to highlight the desperate situation facing the many food banks in Scotland that are trying to cope with increasing demand and reduced donations.

At Drumchapel Food Bank last week the situation was so dire volunteers were left wondering if they would be able to feed the 500 mouths that have come to depend on their support.

“We were down to the last five tins of each item,” said the food bank’s Ryan McGeady. “We were at the point where we thought we might have to tell people they couldn’t come and that is a conversation we have never had. It breaks our heart to even get to that situation.”

An emergency appeal on social media resulted in an “overwhelming” response but the fact stocks were so low shocked McGeady.

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He is not the only one to be concerned. The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) has said many independent food banks are “desperately worried” about how they will continue to operate amid soaring demand and “alarming” inflation figures.

A survey of more than 100 food banks found that most have experienced a rise in demand since the start of the year while also struggling with food supply issues.

The organisation said the situation was becoming “more alarming” by the day with members “running out of options”.

In Drumchapel, demand increased during the pandemic and this has only continued, according to McGeady. One man who came to the food bank last week had not eaten in four days, while others don’t have ovens or hobs and have to heat food up in microwaves. Some are even choosing between heating and eating.

“We have always seen people who are right at the brink and it seems now that there is so much more tension when you speak to people,” said McGeady. “They have been ground down. People already in poverty when Covid hit were hammered worse. They just got over the end of that and now this.”

Alhtough the increase in people needing help has been “huge”, the food bank has been hit by a drop in donations.

“Most of our donations come from the local community but the rising cost of living is affecting our main donors,” McGeady said. “So as well as an increase in client use there is also a decrease in regular donations.”

He added that “without getting too political” the government had “to do more”.

“There is funding out there and there are programmes out there but there is not enough,” said McGeady.

Out at West Dunbartonshire Foodshare, manager Clair Coyle finds it hard to hide her anger that so many people are experiencing such desperate poverty.

“We know the UK is one of the richest countries in the world and we know there is not a need for this,” she said. “We know change can happen but while we wait to see what the government is going to do about it, more people are being plunged into poverty and more people are suffering mental health and social problems.”

LIKE Drumchapel Food Bank, West Dunbartonshire Foodshare has seen an increase in demand and a decrease in donations.

“We are running out of many different types of food constantly,” said Coyle. “We have been fortunate that the local authority has funded us to purchase food but we still rely heavily on public donations and our donation points are not getting as many donations. If anyone has a wee bit extra money they are maybe hanging on to it as they are not sure what the future holds.”

At the same time, the numbers of people seeking food aid are “just going up and up”.

“In the last two or three months we have been hearing from a lot of new people who have never been in this situation before,” said Coyle. “They have never had to ask for help previously as they always just about managed, but with rises in costs for everything they are no longer able to meet the needs of themselves or their families.”

Worryingly, some of the new clients are those who previously donated to the service. Some are in work and some have mortgages and are unable to meet their living costs.

“They are worried, and we are really worried as well, as we are thinking it is going to keep getting worse and worse,” said Coyle. “We are aware there could be further oil and gas price rises in October and we know that food costs are going to continue to increase unless the government does something, but we are not seeing much evidence so far that they are taking this seriously.”

SHE said the organisation was also hearing from people who had developed mental health issues during the pandemic and who were now suffering even more because they were unable to meet their basic living needs.

Last year the organisation distributed almost 18000 emergency food parcels and while this year’s figures are not available yet it is expected the number will be even higher. The service provided has earned the organisation a place in the finals of the Scottish charity awards.

“For us it is a recognition of everyone that donates to us and hopefully will increase awareness of the massive issue of poverty and go some way to make some change in society,” said Coyle.

IFAN co-ordinator Sabine Goodwin said: “Independent food banks are facing unprecedented challenges as they struggle to cope with rising demand and falling donations. The fragility of charitable food aid provision is more obvious than ever. Cash-first, income-based solutions are essential and we urge governments to do their utmost to address escalating poverty with direct financial support.”