LONDON — More than half a million UK people may rely on food banks, says a study by Church Action Poverty and Oxfam.
It blames benefit cuts, unemployment and the increased cost of living for the growth in hunger and poverty.
Oxfam said: “Cuts to social safety-nets have gone too far, leading to destitution, hardship and hunger.”
The Department of Work and Pensions said: “Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities.”
The report was backed by the Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest provider of food banks.
The trust said more than 350,00 people required help from its food banks during 2012, almost triple the number who received food aid the year before.
But the new study says that the true number may be more than 500,000 as the scale of the problem is not being effectively monitored.
It recommends the government improves monitoring and recording of data on food poverty.
The report attributes some of the rise in food bank reliance to “unemployment, increasing levels of underemployment, low and falling income, and rising food and fuel prices”.
However, it added: “Up to half of all people turning to food banks are doing so as a direct result of having benefit payments delayed, reduced, or withdrawn altogether” and “changes to the benefit system are the most common reasons for people using food banks.”
The report calls the amount of food poverty in the UK a “national disgrace”.
It urges a parliamentary inquiry into the way changes in the benefits system – and the issues around benefits being paid correctly and on time – have affected food poverty.
It also calls on the government to raise the minimum wage and benefits in line with inflation, but warns that the current cuts and the introduction of the universal credit system will lead to more people turning to food banks. (BBC)