More than 20 million meals were given to people across Britain last year because they could not afford to feed themselves, research shows. The figure represents an increase of 54 per cent in a year.
The charities who carried out the study - Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust - say the significant annual rise in those needing help is a “damning indictment” of an increasingly unequal Britain.
Welfare reform, benefit sanctions, low wages, insecure contracts and rising food and energy prices were all cited as factors in the increase in those needing help.
Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam, said: “Food banks provide invaluable support for families on the breadline but the fact they are needed in 21st-century Britain is a stain on our national conscience. Why is the Government not looking into this?
“We truly are living through a tale of two Britains; while those at the top of the tree may be benefiting from the green shoots of economic recovery, life on the ground for the poorest is getting tougher.”
A Government spokesman claimed it was not possible to draw conclusions from the figures because they were “unverified” and from “disparate sources”.