Some 22,730 children in Tayside and Fife are part of families in which no one in the household works.
Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions showed Fife, at 11,510, had the third highest figure in Scotland, behind only the regions of Glasgow City (26,130) and North Lanarkshire (12,470).
There were 5,730 such children in Dundee, 2,840 in Angus and 2,650 in Perth and Kinross. It amounts to more than more than 12,700 households across the region.
As the Tory benefit cap was blamed by Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath’s MP for pushing more families into poverty, a single-parent charity warned decisions made by those in power are leaving children cold and hungry.
Fife Gingerbread, chief executive Rhona Cunningham, said: “Here in Fife we already know real poverty is being compounded by policy. We see it in every community every day.
“Never before have we seen so much hardship in communities.
“Families are suffering hardship and deprivation from being trapped in poverty and we in Fife Gingerbread are trying our best to help them.”
She said 171 families, more than ever before, were helped by its festive campaign which raised £50,000 from generous Fifers and distributed food, vouchers and toys.
One parent, who volunteers with the charity, fell to her knees with relief when she saw the package to help her own children.
Ms Cunningham said: “It’s heart breaking and it doesn’t have to be like this.
“Human beings are making decisions that mean children go hungry and cold.”
MP Lesley Laird said youngsters in out-of-work households could be at risk from the Tory benefit cap and blasted the party for pushing more families into poverty. The cap limits the amount of money a family can receive to £384.62 a week.
She said: “This cap is immoral and has a disproportionate impact on families, especially single mothers, struggling to make ends meet.
“I know from being in regular contact with Fife Gingerbread that they’re seeing unprecedented demand on services this year.
“It’s appalling that society is being reduced to this.
“No child should be brought up in poverty and while Labour continue to fight for a fairer welfare system in Westminster, we’re also urging Holyrood to use its new powers to increase child benefit and scrap the two-child cap.”
A DWP spokesperson said the figures were old and few of the households concerned would have benefit income bringing them into the scope of the cap and many would be claiming benefits which exempt them entirely.
She said: “The fact is the benefit cap is helping to transform lives by giving children real-life working role models in their families, unlike the old benefits system which often trapped families in a cycle of worklessness.
“Scotland’s unemployment rate is now the lowest on record.”
Latest figures from August showed 3,100 households in Scotland with 10,000 children had housing benefit capped and, 600 households which had previously had housing benefit capped had moved into work.
Those receiving certain benefits including working tax credit, disability living allowance and the personal independence payment are exempt from the cap.