FOOD bank use remains at record levels, with more than 1.1 million units of emergency supplies given out by a leading charity in the last year, figures have revealed.
The Trussell Trust said there was a 2 per cent increase in three-day supplies provided to people from its network of 424 food banks in the 2015/16 financial year.
More than 415,000 went to children, while on average people were referred to food banks twice in the past year.
Almost half of food banks said there had been an increase in the number of people needing emergency supplies because of benefit sanctions, while other problems included low wages, high living costs or insecure work contracts.
The trust said a million emergency food supplies a year must not become the “new normal”.
Trust chief executive David McAuley said: “Today’s figures on national food bank use prove that the numbers of people hitting a crisis where they cannot afford to buy food are still far too high.
“One million three-day food supplies given out by our food banks every year is one million too many.
“Reducing UK hunger will require a collective effort from the voluntary sector, Government, businesses and the public, and the Trussell Trust is keen to work with all these groups to find solutions that stop so many people needing food banks in future.”
The report said there was a clear link between food bank use and areas of high deprivation.
More than 40,000 volunteers helped at food banks in the past year and the public donated over 10,500 tonnes of food.
Most of the trust’s food banks also offer legal and welfare advice, housing support and clothes.
The trust said its figures do not reveal the full scale of food poverty in the UK because other groups also offer food aid.
A Government spokesman said: “Reasons for foodbank use are complex so it is misleading to link them to any one thing.
“This Government is determined to move to a higher-wage society, introducing the new National Living Wage that will benefit over one million workers directly this year, and we’re also spending £80 billion on working-age benefits to ensure a strong safety net for those who need it most.
“The vast majority of benefits are processed on time and the number of sanctions have actually gone down.”
Shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary Kerry McCarthy said: “It is a national scandal that food bank usage is continuing to rise.
“Food banks have become a truly shameful symbol of a Tory Government that is failing to stand up for ordinary people. While those at the top are given tax breaks, others are struggling to get by.
“Emergency food aid should remain just that - food banks can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Following hard on the heels of the billions stashed abroad by the rich and powerful we have today’s heart-rending report from the Trussell Trust that hundreds of thousands of our fellow-citizens, including children, are struggling, one step away from starvation, in the fifth richest economy in the world.
“If anything demonstrated the fierce and burning inequality engulfing our country, it is the repugnant contrast between a rich elite who can enjoy tax-light arrangements for the cash they have squirrelled away in the British Virgin Islands with the tales of daily despair emanating from the trust’s 424 foodbanks.”
Dr Eilidh Whiteford, the SNP’s spokeswoman for Social Justice and Welfare, said: “That there is already an existing and desperate need for foodbanks in Scotland and across the UK is a complete disgrace but these figures show that foodbank use is actually increasing which shows just how badly the Tories have got it wrong.”
Rachael Orr, Oxfam’s head of UK programme said: “It’s worrying that the number of food parcels given out by the Trussell Trust has risen yet again, topping a million for the second year in a row.”