TONY sat in a chair, waiting to receive the three bags of food that would make the difference between a tolerable weekend and a bad one.

It was his first time in a food bank.

"I was in a Citizens Advice there," he said. "I applied for a crisis loan [from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)] but they said I'd already had three this year, so I couldn't get another one – that's the law – but they gave me addresses for food banks. I'm in dodgy street, man. There was nowhere else I could go. If I could, I would. But my family's on the other side of the city."

On Friday, Tony (his name has been changed), 31, who lives in Bridgeton, had walked ("a wee walk does you good") to Govanhill, where the Elim Church has, since last December, administered the Glasgow South-East Food Bank on behalf of The Trussell Trust, a charity which feeds about 6000 Scots.

Welfare reforms, benefit delays, rising food prices, mortgage arrears, delays before receiving a first pay cheque, or receiving an unexpectedly large bill on a low income are among the reasons why many Scots are, like Tony, turning to food banks.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) says the number of clients seeking food aid has doubled to 2200 in the past two years. A Trussell Trust/Coventry University report last November spoke of thousands of people across the UK facing "impossible choices between eating and heating; feeding their children or paying the rent".

The welfare system, it said, was not responsive enough to prevent it. Some people commit crime to close the gap, others lose their homes.

The three bags from The Trussell Trust each contain a nutritionally balanced range of non-perishable foodstuffs, from cereals and pasta to tins of tomatoes. The food has all been donated. People need a voucher to come here, issued by advice bureaux, GPs, charities or the DWP.

An Elim volunteer slips some money into Tony's hand to help him get back home. He is touched. "That's the first time I've been in this position. I didn't even know what a food bank was until just the other day. When they'd offered me addresses for food banks [previously] I always used to say, 'No, it's all right' ... "

Anne (again, the name has been changed) is also at the Elim food bank for the first time. She and her ex-husband used to look after their 15-year-daughter on a 50/50 basis but for the past 15 weeks she has had the sole responsibility. Aged 45, she is on benefits, which does not make things any easier.

She has been referred here by her MSP. Like Tony, she is thankful for the bags of food: "I'm finding it really hard because I've got to drop her off at school from where I live. I'm going back and forward to my friends, my sister, and they're feeding me, and I'm just trying to keep all the money to get her up to school and out to play with her friends.

"I'd do anything to keep the wee bit of money to keep her happy. I feel she should have a life. I'm feeding her lunch and dinner every day.

"I found out about [the food bank] the other day. If I'm buying for myself, it's just wee knick-knacks and noodles." She didn't rule out coming back to the food bank, although there might be one opening closer to her home.

Twins James and Brian McWilliams, 45, used to be homeless. They now share a home, but the food parcels, which they get every seven or eight weeks are designed to help them get back on their feet.

They said: "We always see there are people who need food more than we do, especially people with weans, so we just come up every so often, just to tide us over until we get our benefit paid. The food we get will last us for a while – food that we're not too keen on, we'll maybe pass on to a pal or a neighbour, so it never goes to waste."

Also on Friday, two vulnerable ex-prisoners showed up at Elim, in the company of a charity representative, as well as two families, a referral from CAS and six single men.

"In terms of referrals, the highest percentage here are single guys, most of them aged between 35 and 45," says Audrey Flannagan, administrator of the church and the food bank. "That probably says more about family breakdown than anything else. Others have had addiction problems."

Flannagan said she hates injustice "and I can't think of anything more unjust than people not being able to feed their families".

She added: "We give people food that they can heat up. It doesn't cost a lot of money to make it. If you're on a budget, you can't put something on to slow-cook for two hours, or a pot of soup on for an hour."

The food bank is not a dependable, weekly supply of free food for those in need. People are generally allowed three vouchers in any one "crisis", although exceptions have been made.

Seventeen people will come by for food today in the space of just two hours. Across the city, other organisations run their own food banks. The problem shows little sign of diminishing any time soon.

The Elim Church takes pride in knowing it helps people who find themselves, often through no fault of their own, in dire straits. And every now and then they express their gratitude in ways that stay with Flannagan and her colleagues.

"We gave food to one man and when he came back he told me something I've never forgotten," says Flannagan. "He said, 'You've no idea how good it is to sit down and finish a meal without having to leave half of it over until the following night'."

Growing number of Scots children only eat at school

INCREASING numbers of Scots pupils in poor families are not being fed outwith school, Jack McConnell, former First Minister of Scotland and chair of the trustees at Radio Clyde Cash for Kids, said yesterday.

"We've found many cases in the west of Scotland where, without foodbanks and food projects, children would be going, from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, not just without a hot meal but in some cases without any proper food at all.

"It is absolutely disgraceful that this is happening in Scotland in the 21st century, but at the same time there is clearly a need here. There are some really good people, many of them community volunteers, trying to meet this need in the absence of the sort of remedial action that might be required. The charity intends supporting these projects where the need exists."

But the problem does not stop there, McConnell (pictured below) added.

"Food on its own is not enough. Many of these children live in homes that lack even the most basic cooking equipment – even in homes where the parents care enough to actually buy food.

"That can sometimes be because a parent and child have escaped from a violent domestic situation, or because their luck has run out, or because of addiction.

"Cookers and fridges, the sort of things that other people take for granted, are closely linked to the ability to feed children properly. If they don't have them, they struggle to provide proper cooked meals. It also dictates what kind of food can be provided – having only a kettle might restrict meals to something like Pot Noodles.

"This is why Radio Clyde Cash for Kids have been backing projects that provide people with basic kitchen equipment, or feeding in community centres or other communal spaces.

"The problem is increasing. We live in difficult economic times. It's bad enough that this situation exists at all in Scotland, but if there is one group of people who are not responsible in the least for this economic crisis, it is the children of the west of Scotland. Whoever might be blamed, it is adults who have to take responsibility.

"Whatever the answer to such questions might be, it is fundamentally wrong that the people who will suffer the most are the children. This is a disgrace in modern-day Scotland.''

McConnell referred to a Jamie Oliver TV documentary featuring young girls who had never boiled a pot of water. "We cannot have yet more generations in a situation where they can't cook and lack the basic essentials to learn how to cook. This is partly a problem of issues such as income, or parenting. There are voluntary projects and charities dealing with this but government at all levels must understand that this has to be a priority."