Food banks handed out more than 1000 extra parcels to children facing 'holiday hunger' last summer, new figures show.

The Trussell Trust, which operates 135 food banks across Scotland, said 6,551 emergency food parcels with enough food for three days were given to children in Scotland during last year's summer holidays.

It is a 21 per cent increase on the 5,412 distributed in the school holidays the previous summer.

It has called for the public to support local food banks as schools break up for summer again. The trust said overall food bank use in Scotland rose by 23 per cent in 2018-19 and predicts this trend will continue, prompting fears this summer will be its busiest to date as families who qualify for free school meals struggle to feed their children over the holidays.

Ahead of the summer break, the trust wants people to check what items their local food bank requires and consider donating.

But it stressed food banks are not a long-term solution for people struggling to afford food and called for benefit reform.

Laura Ferguson, operations manager for Scotland at the Trussell Trust, said: "No charity can replace the dignity of having enough money for the basics but more and more families across Scotland are struggling to make ends meet, unable to afford food and facing hunger as a result. This isn't right.

"Food banks do all they can to help families over the summer, with many running holiday clubs to support parents who find that their income simply won't stretch to meet the extra pressure of missing free school meals or paying for extra childcare during the holidays.

"But ultimately, we should all be protected from needing a food bank's help, no matter the time of the year."

She said the UK Government needed to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of livin, and said secure jobs paying the real Living Wage would help eliminate the need for food bank parcels altogether.

She added: "While it's great to see the Scottish Government pledging to tackle holiday hunger, food banks and other emergency food provision cannot, and must not, be a long term to solution to poverty."

The food bank figures came as the UK government rejected calls to appoint a "minister for hunger".

MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee suggested the move in a report earlier this year.

But responding to their report on Wednesday, the Government said while it would explore the "scale and drivers" of food insecurity, it would not appoint a minister.

In January, the EAC’s report, Sustainable Development Goals in the UK follow up: Hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity in the UK<>, painted a stark picture, concluding that food insecurity is significant and growing in the UK, with levels among the worst in Europe, especially for children. MPs found that the Government had failed to recognise and respond and has allowed these issues to ‘fall between the cracks’. The Government’s obesity strategy was criticised for being silent on food insecurity and the Committee called for a minister to be appointed to ensure-cross departmental action.

In today’s response to the report, the Government has made some commitments to measure and respond to the issue but rejects the call for a minister. Instead, the Department for Work and Pensions

will work to 'improve links' between job centres and food banks and will publish a literature review of the drivers of food bank use later this year.

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP, said: “Being the hungry man of Europe brings shame on our country. Many adults do not bring home enough money to feed their families thanks to high living costs, stagnating wages, and Universal Credit and the wider benefit system.

“As a result, many children rely on free school meals to get the quality nutritious food they need. With the long school holidays just around the corner, thousands of kids face a summer of hunger."