STARVING families are raiding skips under the cover of darkness because they are too ashamed to seek help from food banks, charities have said.

It came as they warned the situation across Scotland is rapidly becoming “unsustainable” amid ongoing benefit changes.

One desperate child in Glasgow was caught eating tomato sauce at school, while volunteers say hungry, undernourished youngsters are tearing open food parcels as soon as they are handed over in a frantic bid to get something to eat.

In Crookston, a divorced father-of-two was found to have survived on nothing but water for four days, charity bosses said.

Laura Ferguson of the Trussell Trust – which has 53 food banks across Scotland – said demand had soared by up to 80 per cent at some of its centres.

She blamed the rollout of Universal Credit welfare reforms, which merge six working-age benefits into one payment.

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She said there was “no doubt” food banks saved lives, but added: “The level of need we are at now is unsustainable. Food banks cannot continue to meet that.”

The Trussell Trust handed out more than 170,000 food parcels to those in need in Scotland last year.

This represents a rise of 17 per cent on the previous year, with demand increasing faster than in England.

Giving evidence to Holyrood’s social security committee, Mark Frankland, manager of First Base Agency Dumfries – a charity which gives out 4000 food parcels a year – said desperate families were taking months to seek help due to the stigma associated with food banks.

He said one family had resorted to visiting their local service station at 3am and “pulling food out of skips”, rather than dealing with the shame of relying on charity.

He added: “This could get much, much worse before it gets any better.”

He said violent gangs were even giving out drugs on “credit”, before demanding payment when Universal Credit kicks in.

Joyce Leggate, chairwoman of Kirkcaldy food bank, said the school holidays had provided a particular pressure point.

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She said: “Over the school holidays, the October holidays in particular, we had quite an increase in the number of children that are right in the parcel, in the food bank, opening stuff up to see what they could eat on the way home, whether it is a packet of biscuits or anything.

“If we have any bread to give out it is getting eaten before they go home, which really is quite shocking to see that level of hunger in children.”

Aziz Zeria, the treasurer of Crookston Community Group in Glasgow, said one child resorted to eating tomato sauce in school.

He added: “Some situations are very, very pitiful.”

In another case, his organisation helped a divorced father-of-two who “hadn’t eaten for days, surviving on water for four days, he had no gas and electricity”.

Mr Zeria said: “He received three parcels from us over a period of time, plus some top-ups so he could have utilities in his house. This allowed him to see his children for the first time in many weeks.”

Steve Wright of Edinburgh City Mission said the nine food banks it has in the city have experienced a 50% boom in referrals this year.

He said the situation had reached “crisis point”, adding: “Last year, we gave away 100 tonnes of food, this year we’re going to be substantially over that.”

However Evan Adamson, community connector at the charity Instant Neighbour, suggested there is a “general feeling of entitlement” among long-term benefits claimants.

He said some food bank users were coming in wearing designer clothes and using top-of-the-range phones, adding: “It’s because society today says, ‘You want these things.’ And they feel left out by not being able to get it.

“So they would rather go and buy these things and use the food banks – where they are solely reliant on food banks for their food.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We continue to spend around £90bn a year on working-age benefits, including for those on low incomes.

Meanwhile, Scotland has significant welfare powers, including to top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits altogether.

“Universal Credit replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that often trapped people in unemployment. Under UC, evidence shows people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer.”