One in seven people in the UK have gone hungry in the past year due to a lack of money, research has suggested.
The Trussell Trust says that ethnic minorities, disabled people and carers are among those more likely to be affected.
The trust said its survey results in the middle of last year equated to an estimated 11.3m people – more than double Scotland’s population.
The findings were described by the charity, which runs more than 1,200 food bank centres, as “just the tip of the iceberg”.
The organisation found that while around 7% of the UK population was supported by charitable food support in the year to mid-2022, 71% of people facing food insecurity said they had not yet accessed any form of support.
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Earlier this year the trust reported record food bank use, distributing almost three million parcels in the year to April 2023 – the most distributed in a single year and a 37% increase on 2021/22.
The trust said it used household food insecurity as an indicator of hardship “as it is an internationally recognised indicator of hunger”.
The United Nations defines food insecurity as lack of regular access to enough safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life, and defines hunger as an uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by insufficient consumption of dietary energy.
The research consists of a survey of 2,563 people who used food banks across the Trussell Trust network between May and August 2022, and a survey of 3,948 people in the UK general population by Ipsos in the same time period.
The charity said the majority (89%) of people referred to food banks in its network receive a means-tested benefit such as universal credit but it did not provide enough to cover the cost of essentials.
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They also said while many people would like to work some face difficulty accessing jobs, including disabled people and carers as well as parents who cannot find affordable childcare.
Among its findings, the trust said three-quarters of people referred to its food banks said they or a member of their household was disabled, while nearly half (47%) of all households experiencing food insecurity included children under the age of 16.
The charity said while single adults with children make up just 3% of the population, 11% of single parents reported experiencing food insecurity.
Almost one in four (24%) people from an ethnic minority background reported food insecurity, almost twice the rate (13%) for white people, the trust said.
More than a quarter (27%) of people who are LGBTQ+ experienced food insecurity, compared to 13% people who are heterosexual, it added.
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Almost a quarter (23%) of unpaid carers experienced food insecurity, compared to 12% of non-carers, and 16% of people referred to food banks reported they had spent time in care as a child.
The charity also said people who had faced recent “adverse life experiences” such as domestic violence, bereavement, eviction or a relationship split made up two thirds (66%) of people referred to food banks.
The charity repeated calls for the Government to introduce an “essentials guarantee”, changing legislation to ensure the basic rate of universal credit is always enough for people to afford the essentials such as food and bills.
Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “Being forced to turn to a food bank to feed your family is a horrifying reality for too many people in the UK, but as Hunger In The UK shows, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Millions more people are struggling with hunger.
“This is not right. Food banks are not the answer when people are going without the essentials in one of the richest economies in the world.
“We need a social security system which provides protection and the dignity for people to cover their own essentials, such as food and bills.”
She added: “We know that if all of us work together, we can end the need for food banks. It’s time to guarantee our essentials and create a roadmap to solve this once and for all.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We know people are struggling, which is why we’re providing record financial support worth an average £3,300 per household.
“On top of this, we have raised benefits and the state pension in line with inflation, increased the National Living Wage and are supporting families with food, energy and other essential costs.
“We’re also bearing down on inflation to help everyone’s money go further, while helping millions more return to work with a £3.5bn package providing more work-coach support, more free childcare and more help for the sick and disabled.”
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