FOODBANKS and aid charities across the UK gave more than 20 million meals last year to people who could not afford to feed themselves.

The shock figures, published today by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust are near to the equivalent to one meal for every one of the 26 million households in the country.

In Scotland, the Trussell Trust fed 71,428 people in 2013/14 - five times the number of people it helped the previous year.

In Glasgow it helped almost 10,000. However, as the Evening Times has reported, these figures don't include those fed by independent groups and churches.

The new report - Below the Breadline - came following the launch of our Food for Thought campaign.

We are calling for a more coordinated approach to make sure foodbanks have a network of support and hungry people know where to seek help.

The report warns that the huge rise in meals handed out is an indictment of an increasingly unequal Britain. The charities want the UK Government to urgently draw up an action plan to reverse the rising tide of food poverty and to collect evidence to understand the scale and cause of the rise in foodbank usage.

They are also urging all political parties to re-instate the social safety net principle as a core purpose of the welfare system.

It comes just a week after the Scottish Parliament's Welfare Reform Committee identified UK-wide welfare reforms as a "significant cause" of the rising use of food- banks in Scotland and highlighted sanctions as a particular issue.

Since the new sanctions policy started in October 2012, more than 1 million sanctions have been applied in the UK, with nearly 100,000 in Scotland.

In the past eight years, food prices have risen by 43.5% as the poorest 20% have seen their disposable income fall by £936 a year.

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: "Foodbanks provide invaluable support for families on the breadline but the fact they are needed in 21st century Scotland is a stain on our national conscience."

Foodbank users featured in the report spoke of the struggle to feed themselves and of deteriorating health.

One woman described her situation as, "like living in the 1930s", while another said "I wouldn't eat for a couple of days, just drink water".

Research shows that more than half a million children in the UK are in families that are unable to provide a minimally acceptable diet.

George Kirkpatrick, chairman of West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare, said charities had to step in to help and he fears "this is being encouraged as the new norm for delivering welfare to the destitute".

The report will feature in tonight's Dispatches, at 7.35pm on Channel 4.