The number of people reliant on food banks to help feed themselves and their families could rocket to more than two million, according to new research.
Research by Dr Rachel Loopstra, from Oxford University, forecasts that Tory plans for a further £12bn in welfare cuts could lead to a doubling in food banks users by 2017.
Trussell Trust, who operates over 440 food banks, gave out 1,084,604 emergency food parcels in 2014/15 – up from 61,468 in 2010/11.
The charity is just one of many food bank providers, charities and churches supporting hungry families across the UK.
The research also shows that rising food bank use is due to higher demand, rather than greater supply – as claimed by some government ministers.
According to a formula devised by Dr Loopstra, the number of food parcels given out per head of the population rises by 0.16% for every 1% cut in welfare spending.
Dr Loopstra said: “It coincides with spending cuts, welfare reform and record numbers of benefit claimants losing payments due to sanctions.”
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves seized on the figures, saying they were further evidence of the hardship and misery caused by Tory welfare policy.
“It would be an absolute disgrace for food bank use to double”, she said.
“The welfare state is there to provide a safety net. It’s not doing what it’s meant to do when people have to rely on charity.”
Reeves said David Cameron’s pledge of more savage cuts to welfare benefits means he has no choice but to cut working-age benefits, because the Tories have ruled out any changes to pensions and pensioner benefits.
“The Tories cannot achieve their £12bn of cuts to social security without doing so and hitting family budgets hard”, she said.
“Child benefit and tax credits are now on the ballot paper next week. Labour will protect them, and families across the country now know the Tories will cut them again.”
Reeves blamed benefit delays, sanctions and the hated bedroom tax for the increased demand on food banks.
She said Labour was the only party committed to reducing the reliance on food banks.
“A Labour government would do this by axing the bedroom tax, getting rid of benefit sanctions targets and introducing protections for people with mental health problems, carers, pregnant women and people at risk of domestic violence.”
She added: “It’s inevitable, if the Tories get back in, that we will see further food bank use.”
Trussell Trust’s Adrian Curtis said: “Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers in the UK today.”