A food bank had to turn desperate people away after running out of supplies amid unprecedented demand.
Charity leaders laid bare the shocking extent of the north-east’s poverty crisis yesterday, as a poll suggested that a third of people in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray “regularly” skip meals to save money.
They say the situation came to a head recently when shelves were left empty at an Aberdeen food bank which hands out emergency packages.
Instant Neighbour said there was “nothing worse” than having to turn 20 hungry people away from its St Machar Drive premises empty-handed.
Business development manager Susan Cheyne said stocks had been wiped out by a spiralling number of users.
She said: “We have seen an increase of about 70% in people coming here since last year.
“There are around 20 food banks in Aberdeen, and a lot are really struggling for food now as demand keeps growing.
“Last Thursday, we
completely ran out and had to turn people away, there was nothing worse than that.
“We asked them to come back the next afternoon, as we had some collections from local churches and offices planned on Friday morning.
“People are having to make choices between paying the bills and eating, but we are doing all we can to help.”
Last night, staff at the Moray Food Bank said revelations about increasing poverty in the north-east came as “no surprise” – and predicted the situation will only get worse.
Gilbert Grieve, of the group, said: “In the last year, we have gone from helping 1,800 people to helping 2,302.
“Of those numbers, 743 are children and it is no shock to me that things are getting worse across the board.
“I expect our figures will increase next year as well.”
The Community Food Initiative North East (C-Fine) charity has tripled the number of emergency packages it dishes out in the last three years.
Development worker Graeme Robbie pointed out an increasing trend where people with full-time jobs are still “unable to pay for food”.
A survey released by The Poverty Alliance found that 29% of people in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray regularly missed meals to save money.
It also suggested that 32% of north-east residents had fallen behind with household bills in the last year, 36% had topped up their income with a credit card or loan and 19% had fallen behind with their rent or mortgage payments.
Of the 155 people polled across the north-east, 35% said financial stress was affecting their working life.
Director of The Poverty Alliance, Peter Kelly, said the research “painted a worrying picture”.
Ms Cheyne believes the oil downturn has made the north-east particularly prone to poverty.
She said: “That has had a knock-on effect on all other industries, hotels and shops are suffering too.”
She also attributed the rising demand to people struggling to manage their finances upon moving from fortnightly to monthly unemployment payments.
And she said certain benefits now being restricted to the first two children in a family was also having an impact.
The Trussell Trust charity runs more than 400 food banks across the UK, including several in the north-east.
The charity yesterday confirmed a recent rise in the number of emergency food supply parcels being handed out.
About 200 more of the packages, which are intended to last three days, have been distributed in 2016-17 than the year before.
In the last year, 14,603 were issued across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray and the High-lands.
They generally contain non-perishable items like pasta, tinned soup, cereal and biscuits.