"IT’S really heartbreaking – our staff are often in tears over the calls we are getting.”

This blunt statement from Clair Coyle, manager of West ­Dunbartonshire Foodshare, sums up the experience of the many charities across Scotland supplying food to desperate people.

“We are getting some very ­difficult calls,” she said. “It’s not easy. The staff and volunteers are crying ­regularly.”

While the UK Government has now announced help with energy bills, Coyle thinks it “won’t even touch the surface”.

“It’s nowhere near enough to help folk,” she said. “It’s going to be a long, hard winter for a lot of families and individuals.”

Coyle is hoping last week’s ­announcement on an energy cap for businesses and charities will help drive down their operating costs, as not only has demand for services ­increased along with a significant drop in donations, but the charity is also having to cope with rocketing costs of energy and diesel for their premises and delivery vans.

“It’s a worry at the moment, as we are spending a lot of time looking for funding for operational costs, as well as funding to purchase food,”

she said.

Meanwhile, more people are calling the food store on a daily basis, with the charity seeing new groups that have never sought help before.

“We are now getting families where both parents are in work, but their earnings are just over the threshold for being able to get extra support for things like free school meals and the school uniform grant,” said Coyle. “This is a whole different type of group who have never sought support before.”

There has also been an increase in young people, including students, seeking help.

“I know a lot of wages are not ­rising in line with what is going on, but ­student finance hasn’t risen at all either, and students are expected to make ends meet on what has been a stagnant level of student finance for several years now,” she said.

At the same time as the increase in need, the charity has been “terribly affected” by a drop in donations.

“We are doing funding applications to anywhere we can think of to pull in some funding to purchase food because we know the need for our service will increase more over the winter months,” said Coyle.

“There is not really the option of not being here. There is going to be a big impact on people who maybe have debts from loans or mortgages ­because of the interest rates rise – things just seem to be constantly coming at people. It’s all very well and good announcing these wee bits of money the Government is giving out, but I don’t think it is ­alleviating ­anyone’s stress. Everyone is just ­worrying more and more.”

Energy costs are the biggest issue, and Coyle pointed out that the EU had now announced a windfall tax on the oil and gas producing ­companies in order to give households and ­businesses support.

“Here we know the taxpayer is just going to have to pay for the ­support, but the energy companies are ­reporting record profits, so it is not right at all,” she said.

It is difficult to say if the extra ­government help will have any ­effect on the demands on foodbanks, ­according to a spokesperson for ­Glasgow North West Foodbank.

“Only time will tell,” she said. “At all of our three foodbanks, the ­numbers certainly are increasing, and it is only now that the energy rises are starting to bite.”

While footfall has multiplied by two or even three times in a ­ matter of months, donations have been ­dropping since the start of the year.

“At one point, we would actually help out other foodbanks, but now we are just working with what we are ­getting in,” said the spokesperson. “We don’t have the excess to pass around anymore.”

It is a similar story at Drumchapel Foodbank, which is now having to ­appeal for donations on a monthly ­basis when the shelves are empty.

“We are having to appeal much more frequently than before,” said the foodbank’s Ryan McGeady.

At the same time, demand has ­nearly doubled in recent months.

“We are still experiencing such a high use,” he said.

“Nothing has slowed down here and if anything it has got a bit ­harder because fewer people can afford to donate. We still do well but it is nowhere near the volume we used to see.”

WHILE the Government energy cap will help “a bit”, McGeady was dubious about how much difference it would make.

“It will help but to what extent is yet to be seen,” he said. “Things are definitely getting worse.”

Sabine Goodwin, co-ordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, said: “Measures introduced so far have hardly touched the sides of what’s needed to tackle the UK’s deepening poverty crisis and the Chancellor’s mini-Budget has excluded the very people who need support.

“As independent foodbanks across Scotland struggle to cope with ­rising demand, the need for ­action to ­directly and adequately boost ­incomes is more urgent than ever.”