The number of people predicted to turn to food banks in Britain next year rather than starve could reach a million, a charity has told Sky News.
Since April this year more than half a million people living on the bread-line had to be referred for food aid by social workers or a doctor in order to feed themselves or their families.
And the rise in the number of people sinking deeper into poverty will mean more food banks will have to open across the country in 2014, according to the Chairman of the Trussell Trust Chris Mould.
Speaking exclusively to Sky News he said: “With earnings rising at less than 1% and social security support capped at 1% whilst the cost of living is rising three times as fast, the reality for millions of people in the UK will be an even tougher year than the one they’ve just been through.
“Sadly that means many more people will be referred to food banks in 2014 than in 2013. In fact by this time next year we could well be talking about how Trussell Trust food banks have helped a million people in just one year alone.”
The stark warning comes as new figures from the think-tank the New Economics Foundation reveal living standards in Britain have seen the biggest drop since the Victorian age.
Low and middle earners are suffering an unprecedented squeeze on their incomes as austerity measures continue to bite, with women and part-time workers disproportionately affected.
And food banks are seeing a three-fold increase in demand, according to Mr Mould.
“We’ve launched over 400 food banks since 2004. I expect the Trussell Trust network to grow by a further 100 food banks during 2014. There are still areas of the country where people in financial crisis are unable to get help easily from a local Trussell Trust food bank and we are working hard towards a goal where no one in the UK needs to go hungry.”
Mother-of-five Gayle Needham, 34, from Barnsely, south Yorkshire, is going hungry. She has had to visit her local food bank three times in just under a month. Her partner recently lost his job and they are facing a delay in benefits payments.
“I think we are basically what you call scraping the barrel. We are right at the bottom. We have faced a day where we probably have two tins of beans and a loaf of bread and that’s it.
“It’s either food bank or nothing. It makes me feel that I’ve failed as a mum. I’m not bothered about me or my partner, but if you can’t provide for your kids, what kind of parent are you?”
Gayle is one of 13 million people in Britain today who are living in poverty as classified by the Government. Her five children will receive presents their parents collected from an online giveaway site. There will be no Turkey because they cannot afford the electricity to cook it.
“I’m not looking forward to Christmas – I’m really not. I know it’s going to be devastating. I know they (the children) haven’t got half as much as they want.
“We pray for a miracle but we all know we’re not going to get one.”