Children are so hungry they cannot wait until they leave a Fife food bank to start eating, says a charity.
Joyce Leggate, the chairman of Kirkcaldy Foodbank, said they have seen an increase in the number of youngsters needing their help and now account for a third of all handouts.
A Holyrood committee also heard that demand for the food packages soars in areas after Universal Credit has been rolled out, which includes Dundee and Fife.
Ms Leggate told MSPs on Thursday that the desperation of some children at the foodbank is “distressing”.
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 are going home, which really is quite shocking to see that level of hunger in children.”
Laura Ferguson, of the Trussell Trust charity, which has 53 food banks across Scotland, said demand increases by up to 80% when UC launches in areas.
She praised the “invaluable work” food banks do, but added: “We cannot forever rely on food banks to pick up the pieces of a failed welfare state.”
The pressure to pause the roll-out of UC is increasing on the UK Government ahead of next week’s Budget.
Delays to payments under the new system, which sees six benefits merged into one, are plunging households into crisis, politicians across Tayside and Fife have reported.
New claimants have been receiving UC in a staggered roll-out since 2013, while those already in receipt of support are gradually converting to the reformed regime ahead of a 2023 completion date.
David Torrance, the Kirkcaldy MSP for the SNP, said the evidence from Kirkcaldy Foodbank is “very disturbing”.
“As welfare cuts bite, and in many cases through the impact of Universal Credit, families are finding themselves without food or income for up to six weeks,” he said.
“A lot of these children would be entitled to free school meals but because they are on school holidays, they are not getting any meals at all during the day.”
UK Government officials have previously said the reasons for foodbank use are complicated and warned against linking it with UC.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions, said they spent £90 billion a year on working-age benefits while Holyrood has new powers to top-up existing payments and create new ones.
“Universal Credit (UC) replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that often trapped people in unemployment,” the spokeswoman added.
“Under UC, evidence shows people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer.
“We brought in improvements which include increasing advances to 100%, removing the seven-day waiting period and paying people’s Housing Benefit for two weeks while they wait for the first UC payment.“