New figures from food bank operator The Trussell Trust have revealed record levels of demand in the past year.
The trust handed out more emergency food parcels in the year April 2018 to March 2019 than at any other time since it opened its first food bank in 2000.
In the past year, Trussell Trust provided over 1.5 million emergency food supplies to people in crisis, up 18.8 per cent on the previous year. Over half a million of the parcels went to children.
New data from the charity also reveals that the number of food parcels handed out across the UK in the past five years has soared by 73 per cent.
Trussell Trust operates more than 1,200 food bank centres across the UK. The emergency food packages provide one person with enough food to last three days and are made up of food donations from local people.
The charity said that a third of referrals were people on low incomes, 80 per cent of whom were on benefits. One in five referrals had experienced a delay to their benefits while for 17 per cent, there had been a change to their benefits.
Trussell Trust said that for around half (49 per cent) of those who had experienced a delay to their benefits, the problem was related to Universal Credit.
In response to its findings, the charity said the Government needed to make its "first priority" ending the five week waiting period for the first Universal Credit payment.
Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie said it was "not right" that there had been a year-on-year increase in the number of people unable to afford food.
She said the Government needed to give benefit payments that "reflect the true cost of living" and take action to ensure employers pay their staff the Living Wage.
"Enough is enough. We know this situation can be fixed – that's why we're campaigning to create a future where no one needs a food bank," she said.
"Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty. Universal Credit should be part of the solution but currently the five week wait is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics.
"Ultimately, it's unacceptable that anyone should have to use a food bank in the first place. No charity can replace the dignity of having financial security."