STARVING Glaswegians are appealing to medics for food supplements because they can't afford to buy food.

Community dieticians have been approached by those struggling to buy meals and asked for the drinks which are normally prescribed for the sick.

Those in need are then told how to get in touch with services which can help them, including foodbanks and agencies which can give financial advice.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde dietician Hannah Duncan said the situation in which people are finding themselves is "criminal".

She said: "It is sad that people in this country are having to live on foodbank donations.

"I think it is criminal."

Hannah, who is based at the Gartnavel Royal Hospital, leads a programme working with women who have a body mass index (BMI) outwith the normal range.

Prior to this she was a community midwife based in Shettleston.

It was during her time in the community that she saw how desperate some people were.

She said: "We would get people coming to the dietician asking for supplements because they couldn't afford to eat.

"This is a nutritional drink that can be prescribed if your are malnourished.

"People are asking for this because they don't have enough money to buy food. It is not the norm but it is happening."

Some of those in poverty also lack the means to cook food and store it, the expert added. She said: "Every case has its own challenges. Some people have no cooking facilities or even fridges.

"There are also those who don't have cupboard space, or anywhere to store food. They may be living in shared accommodation or waiting to be housed.

"These are things that most of us take for granted."

Chaotic lifestyles faced by those in poverty are further exacerbating their circumstances, added Hannah.

She said: "Your diet is not a priority if your are in difficult circumstances. You are not going to be thinking 'what can I eat that is healthy today?'

"Where you place your diet and eating can be really low on the priority list because there are so many other things going on."

Those with little money to spend on food are more likely to suffer obesity rather than weight loss.

Hannah said: "Cheap, ready-made food provides calories for you money, and more fat and sugar for your money.

FAT carries a lot of flavour and cheaper foods are higher in fat.

"There is a strong gradient that shows that obesity is related to poverty.

"This is because of limited food choices, high- calorie foods, lack of knowledge about healthy eating and cooking skills and a lack of facilities."

Poverty is also linked to other illnesses with certain types of cancer more prevalent in areas of deprivation.

These people often have specific nutritional needs which must be met by their diet.

Hannah added: "Cancer is aggressive and it requires energy. A lot of people with cancer are on high calorie diets.

"Cancer is a problem across the board but there are some which are more associated with poverty."

She added that being helped by a foodbank and given the means to put food on the table can help to restore the dignity of those who were otherwise unable to feed themselves and boost their mental wellbeing.

But the contents of these bags should be considered emergency supplies.

These normally consist of tinned fruit and vegetables, tinned meat and fish, dried pasta, rice and cereal.

Hannah said: "The food issued by food banks is a crisis package.

"While some consideration has been given to nutrition this is not a sustained diet, it is simply to feed people in desperate need who would not otherwise have any food to eat."

Hannah had the following advice for those on a budget: "Fresh fruit and vegetables are always preferable to tinned but sometimes this isn't an option.

"If you are going for tinned fruit make sure it is fruit in its own juice, not syrup.

"And fruit and vegetables with different colours contain different vitamins so always strive for a colourful plate."

She added: "As a general rule, we need to eat more fruit and vegetables and cut down on protein foods.

"Breakfast is really important. Ideally we need to eat three meals a day based on wholegrain and wholewheat starchy foods - potatoes, cereal, pasta, rice and bread.

"Every meal should also contain dairy food like milk or cheese for calcium."