The Trussell Trust.provided more than 2.1 million parcels to people facing food poverty between 1 April 2021 and 31 March this year.
This represented a 14% rise compared with the same period in 2019/20 and was the first time food banks in its network had provided more than two million parcels, outside the 2020/21 hieght of the pandemic.
In the latest period, more than 830,000 parcels were provided for children, a 15% increase from 2019/20.
The charity warned of an accelerating crisis across the UK following the cut to Universal Credit, as well as the impact of the cost of living, including soaring food prices.
It is now calling on the government to increase benefits to help those most at risk.
It comes after food redistribution groups told The Grocer last week they faced increasing challenges getting surplus food to those in need as the cost of living crisis pushed demand to higher levels than during much of the pandemic.
Some charitable organisations said they have had to decline requests from their community groups, while others have seen the prevailing issue of driver shortages continue to affect their ability to distribute food.
“People are telling us they’re skipping meals so they can feed their children,” said Trussell Trust CEO Emma Revie. “That they are turning off essential appliances so they can afford internet access for their kids to do their homework.
“How can this be right in a society like ours? And yet food banks in our network tell us this is only set to get worse as their communities are pushed deeper into financial hardship. No one’s income should fall so dangerously low that they cannot afford to stay fed, warm and dry.
“There is still time for the UK government to do the right thing. We are calling on the UK government to bring benefits in line with the true cost of living. As an urgent first step, benefits should be increased by at least 7%, keeping pace with increases in the cost of living. In the longer term, we need the government to introduce a commitment in the benefits system to ensure that everyone has enough money in their pockets to be prevented from falling into destitution.”