ONE in five children in Fife are "living in relative poverty" and the pandemic has made existing health inequalities even worse.

And Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Alex Rowley said our battered economy must be rebuilt in a way to ensure that "no child should ever have to go to school hungry".

The Fife Child Poverty Action Report 2020 sets out how Fife Council and NHS Fife are working together, along with other organisations, to tackle the issue.

Councillor Judy Hamilton, convener of community and housing services, said: “The pandemic has had an enormous impact on Fife’s communities.

"Many families have been thrown into hardship due to furlough or job loss with their money needing to stretch further.

"It has exacerbated Fife’s existing health inequalities, with less affluent families more likely to be impacted by the coronavirus and more likely to be missing opportunities to learn."

She added: “But there have been positives too, with neighbours and communities pulling together to support each other in new ways.

"Now is the time to learn from our response to the pandemic. We need to join up support at a local level, reduce duplication and improve resource allocation to address child poverty.”

Dona Milne, NHS Fife’s director of public health, added: “It’s more important than ever to listen to families and understand their experiences.

"By doing this, we can respond effectively to the barriers people face in having enough resource to nurture and support babies, children and young people, as well as women in pregnancy.

“A great deal of effort has been made by staff across Fife’s public and third sectors to respond to the crisis.

"But now we need to examine the wider drivers which impact on income, such as education, training and employment and access to good work, access to relevant benefits and reducing essential costs for families.”

Last week was Challenge Poverty Week, which said too many people are living in poverty and highlighted that boosting people's income and reducing the cost of living can make a huge difference.

Mr Rowley said: “Too many children in Fife and across the country go to school hungry – this is the true face of modern poverty.

"Only a few weeks ago, a report from the Trussell Trust found an 89 per cent increase in the number of emergency food parcels handed out, compared with last year, including a shocking 107 per cent increase in the number of parcels given to children."

The Labour politician said the pandemic's "massive impact on poverty levels" were yet to be felt and added: "Our economy is badly broken but, in rebuilding it, we need to restructure it in such a way that no child should ever have to go to school hungry.

"This means boosting people’s incomes, reducing the cost of living, creating new jobs, delivering on training and skills and building homes suitable for all.

"The crisis has shown us that we need to take this action urgently and any delay will only exacerbate and prolong the blight of modern poverty we face in this country.

"Together, we can challenge poverty – but it requires action more than words.”