CALLS have been made for the Scottish Government to top up child benefit as a new report found one in 10 people living in the poorest areas have run out of food in the last year because of a lack of money.

While only 1% of people living in the most affluent communities reported having nothing left to eat in the previous 12 months, new figures on food insecurity showed this increased to 10% in the most deprived areas.

Almost one in five (18%) of those living in the worst off areas had been worried about running out of food over the last year – with 21% of single parents reporting this as a concern.

The findings from the 2017 Scottish Health Survey, which for the first time included questions on food insecurity, also found 7% ate less than they should and 4% did run out of food.

Earlier this year calls to top up child benefit by £5 a week and lift 30,000 youngsters out of poverty were rejected yesterday by the Scottish Government.

Campaigners had wanted the SNP to write the measure into new social security laws, using newly devolved powers.

But in a vote the party rejected Labour’s amendment.

HeraldScotland: Alison Johnstone MSP

Scottish Greens health spokesperson Alison Johnstone MSP said it was time for the Scottish Government to rethink their refusal to top-up Child Benefit.

"It’s appalling that in wealthy 21st century Scotland we have so many people either worrying about running out of food due to lack of money or actually going hungry because they’re strapped for cash," she said "The impact of poor nutrition on people’s physical and mental health is well understood, and it’s particularly detrimental to children’s development.

"I hope in light of the new findings on food insecurity SNP Ministers think again about a £5-a-week top-up of Child Benefit and finish the job on mitigating the Benefit Cap, to ensure families no longer go hungry.”

Almost 3,700 adults and just over 1,600 children across Scotland took part in the 2017 survey – with the findings showing increased consumption of fruit and vegetables.

Nearly one in four ate the recommended five portions a day, the highest total since 2003 – although the figures also showed that 10% had not consumed any fruit or vegetables on the day prior to the survey being carried out.

HeraldScotland: Scotland boasts lowest levels of poverty in the UK

But on average adults in Scotland consumed 3.3 portions of fruit or vegetables, against the highest since 2003, with children 2.9 portions on average – the best since 2008.

The survey found 8% of adults had experienced food insecurity in 2017, with this defined as being a worry they would run out of food because of financial problems.

This affected one in five (20%) adults aged 16 to 64 who were living alone.

The report said there was a “significant association between area deprivation and food insecurity in 2017”, noting that 18% of those in the most deprived areas had been worried about running out of food at some point in the last 12 months, compared to 3% of people in the least deprived areas.

Charities Oxfam Scotland, the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Nourish Scotland and The Poverty Alliance joined forces to set up A Menu for Change – a project aimed at tackling food insecurity and poverty.

Policy officer Mary Anne MacLeod said: “These statistics paint a grim picture of hunger across the country. Given Scotland isn’t facing a food shortage, this is clearly a problem of widespread poverty.

“The figures show 16 to 44 year olds are most likely to be going hungry. We know low wages, zero-hour contracts, frozen benefit levels and the introduction of Universal Credit are pushing more and more people to the brink.

“When so many people are struggling to make ends meet you know something has gone badly wrong with the system.

“That’s why our political leaders must urgently fix the system, in our rich country no-one should be constantly worrying about how they’re going to feed their kids. We can do better than that. Everyone should be able to access the money they need to put food on the table.”

A Scottish Government spokesman: “No one should experience food insecurity in a country as prosperous as Scotland.

“We are directly challenging the causes of food insecurity by promoting the living wage and embedding a rights-based approach in our new social security system.

“We continue to challenge the UK Government’s punitive welfare policies and continued austerity, which takes money out of the pockets, and food out of the mouths, of the most vulnerable in our society. We expect to spend £125 million this year alone in mitigating UK Government welfare measures.

“We have increased our Fair Food Fund to £1.5 million this year, rising to £3.5 million next year, to reduce and over time remove the need for food banks.”