WE OFTEN take food for granted but it's something we need to have a serious discussion about in Scotland and we need to acknowledge that too many people, including children, are going hungry.

An investigation by the Scottish Greens recently discovered that families in Scotland have accrued more than £1million pounds of school meals debt.

Sadly, Clackmannanshire Council said they didn't have the relevant data available and that in itself is deeply troubling.

Nearby local authorities such as Perth and Stirling had debt levels of £80,551 and £18,407, respectively, so there's no reason to believe that parents in Clackmannanshire won't be facing a similar problem.

This is especially true in light of recent figures which show a 9 per cent increase in food parcels distributed in Clackmannanshire from April 2018 to September 2019 compared to the same period in the previous year.

That figure would be worrying enough, but the raw number of parcels distributed between April 2018 and September last year, 13,171, is staggering when you consider the fact the area has a population of only 51,400.

Currently the Scottish Government provides funding for free school meals for every child in P1 through to P3, so the importance of nutritious meals in a child's education is clearly recognised by policy makers.

The problem is that a child's need for healthy food doesn't suddenly diminish when they start their fourth year at school or when they move into secondary education.

Free school meals are available for people on low incomes past primary three, but all the evidence suggests that the uptake of means tested benefits is far lower than universal benefits. These debt figures simply confirm that fact.

The fact is that some children in Scotland are going hungry, which has an impact on their attainment at school and compounds an already vicious cycle of poverty.

The Scottish Government has looked to Finland in the past for policy inspiration and should do so again. There every child is provided with a nutritious breakfast and lunch even during school holidays ensuring they never have to go hungry.

Scotland is rightly recognised the world over for the quality of our produce, but it's too often seen as a luxury or a commodity when really, we should all feel the benefit

There is an abundance of local producers throughout the region and the children in our schools shouldn't feel so cut off or distant from where their food comes from.

It's far from impossible. The Food for Life programme is already running in nine local authorities, including neighbouring Stirling, and is designed to reconnect people with food production while teaching them how it's grown and cooked.

Food is such an integral part of our lives and it's a real shame that its production and consumption has come to be dominated by faceless corporations or distant factories, but that needn't be the case.

We have all the tools and resources we need to ensure that no child in Scotland goes hungry, all that's needed now is the will.