'Alarming' rise in foodbank use
Campaigners have called for urgent action to tackle poverty in the UK after new figures showed an "alarming" increase in the number of people using foodbanks.
The Trussell Trust said it gave at least three days' emergency food over a million times in the last financial year from its 445 foodbanks.
The Trust said 49% of users needed one foodbank voucher in a year, 15% needed help more than three times, and on average, people needed two foodbank vouchers.
The Trust said it has always reported figures in this way, adding that more people received food last year than ever before.
The actual number of people given food was estimated to be around half a million, but as many visited the foodbanks twice, the Trust said they had given help over a million times, including to 400,000 children.
Unions and campaign groups said the true figure was much higher, as other charities, and churches, also run hundreds of foodbanks.
The Trussell Trust, which launched its first foodbank in Salisbury in 2000, said the number of people receiving supplies in the last financial year increased by 19% over the previous 12 months.
Problems with benefits were the main reason people visited foodbanks, but the Trust said there had been an increase in those on low incomes.
Foodbank managers reported dealing with people struggling with insecure work, low pay and high living costs.
Trussell Trust UK foodbank director Adrian Curtis said: "Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers of men, women and children in the UK today.
"It's difficult to be sure of the full extent of the problem as Trussell Trust figures don't include people who are helped by other food charities or those who feel too ashamed to seek help.
"Trussell Trust foodbanks are increasingly hosting additional services like debt counselling and welfare advice at our foodbanks, which is helping more people out of crisis. The Trussell Trust's latest figures highlight how vital it is that we all work to prevent and relieve hunger in the UK."
Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, said the rise in food bank use was "alarming", and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said in a speech in Sheffield: "We don't think that punitive sanctions will lift people out of poverty - in fact they are morally indefensible and deeply damaging. It is the duty of Government to ensure that our economy provides decently paid jobs for all those looking for work.
"The principle that those at the bottom of society shouldn't be made to pay for the mistakes and fraud of the bankers, runs through everything we are doing as a party.
"We believe that poverty is a result of political decisions - and that only a new kind of politics can overturn the race to the bottom on wages and benefits that we've seen for too long in this country."
Last year the public donated 10,280 tonnes of food to foodbanks.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "This should make all of us ashamed, particularly those who claim we have a strong economy and everyone is sharing in the recovery."
Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said: "The shocking rise in the number of people relying on Trussell Trust food banks since 2010 shows the Tory plan is failing."
Oxfam head of UK poverty Rachael Orr said: "It's extremely worrying to see yet another rise in the number of people being forced to visit foodbanks in the UK.
"We know there are many more out there who are using independent ones, not to mention the people who don't go to foodbanks and are literally going without enough food.
"Whoever forms the next government can't ignore the fact that people in the seventh richest country in world are going hungry every day."
A Conservative spokesman said: " We want a strong, balanced recovery that benefits everyone - but we will take no lectures from Ed Miliband. He leads a party who presided over the deepest recession in living memory, whose incompetent economic policies hit the poorest harder than anyone.
"Increased use of food banks is partially because the last Labour government didn't let Jobcentres direct people to them when they were in need of food. But of course we acknowledge there is still more to do - one family failing to make ends meet each month is a family too many."