WHAT an apt time of year it is for the issue of food banks to reach bubbling point.
We are just past harvest festival when, if the church traditions of my youth still operate, congregations gather tinned food and grains to be distributed to the poor. The poor are all around us now, as are food banks.
Sometimes a story flickers and nags at the edges of your peripheral vision, urging you to look. For the past year the growing prevalence of food banks has had sporadic attention.
Now the figures are too stark to ignore. According to the Trussell Trust, one of several Christian organisations operating food banks, 23,082 people in Scotland used their services from April to September this year. That figure was 4021 last year.
In Glasgow alone that number rose from 240 to 2218; last year there was one food bank. This year there are three. The trust will launch a fourth in Glasgow in November, such is demand.
Across the UK, 350,000 people accessed food banks in this six-month spell, prompting the Trussell Trust to this week ask David Cameron for a UK-wide public inquiry into food poverty.
There are those who would argue numbers are up simply because the number of food banks has risen; need is not new.
Lord Freud, an Under-Secretary at the Department of Work and Pensions, who is a former investment banker, will try to have us believe that supply has created demand: "Clearly food from a food bank," he said, "is by definition a free good and there's almost infinite demand."
Coalition Education Secretary Michael Gove was advised to mind his Ps and Qs following his insight that: "They [food bank users] are not best able to manage their finances." This is like the gentle advice from Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, who suggests people might like to wear warm jumpers at home to cut their fuel bills. The Trussell Trust says some are returning tinned goods as they cannot afford the fuel to heat them. What amount of wool offers a solution to that?
So there we have the folk in charge of easing the pinch, inoculated against pain. How else would a human look to their fellow man, destitute, and accuse him of laughing all the way to the food bank? And in spite of the endless news of welfare upheaval, low wages, higher costs of living, zero hour and temporary contracts and public spending cuts.
Yet, David Cameron's party seems determined to deny those are causes for the simple but painful fact that rising numbers of Britons are no longer able to feed themselves when, simultaneously, the latest fad, the 5:2 diet, advocates fasting for those for whom food is not a scant resource but an enemy to corralled and subdued.
The blogger Jack Monroe, who has become the poster girl for cooking cheaply- and by cheap I mean dirt -launched a campaign to have people give up their cup of take away coffee for the day and instead buy food to donate. She equates one £3 coffee, a treat, to 22 nutritionally questionable but better than nothing meals, a week's worth of food. There is no longer a gulf between "us and them"; there is a gap of £3.
The presence of food banks simultaneously impresses and appalls. That so many churches, charities and volunteers are willing to expand, donate and offer their time and services is a reassuring thing.
But that our societal safety nets are so torn that the Government is allowing the benefits system to be taken off its hands, in a skewiff way, so that a third party is feeding those in need, is a disgrace, just as credit unions are trying to make financial ends meet for families in trouble.
The Government is allowing charity to fit the yoke of its responsibilities when it should bail out the food banks.
A public inquiry is overdue, as is the time to ask how we got here and exactly what we're going to do to fix it.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.