More than 20,000 people in the South West have been forced to turn to food banks over the past six months, new figures reveal.
Data from the Trussell Trust, the country's largest organiser of food banks, shows 13,719 adults and 7,269 children in the region received emergency food between April and September.
This, the Guardian reports, equates to one in 120 children being fed with food packages in the trust’s south west region.
The figures, released to coincide with World Food Day, reveal nationally 109,294 adults and children in the UK received emergency food aid between April and September. This compares with a total of 128,697 in the whole of 2011-12.
The 20,988 people in the South West turning to food banks over the past six months compares to 16,142 in the South East; 15,015 in London and 13,947 in the West Midlands.
Trussell Trust Executive Chairman Chris Mould said: “Day in, day out, food banks already meet UK parents who are going without food to feed their children, or are forced to consider stealing to stop their children going to bed hungry.
“Further rises in food and fuel bills could see even more people in crisis turn to food banks.
“Many low-income working families are living on a knife edge. This rise in food prices could be enough to tip them into poverty, especially as winter approaches and heating costs increase.
“Christmas is looking bleak for thousands of UK families.”
The trust, which runs 34 food banks in the South West and has a further five under development, operates a voucher system, whereby care professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers and police identify people in crisis and issue them with a food bank voucher.
Those in need bring their voucher to a food bank centre, where it can be redeemed for three days’ emergency food.
Food packages consist of items such as UHT or powdered milk, soup, pasta, tinned meat and biscuits.
More than 90 per cent of the food given out by food banks is donated by the public. Some 875.1 tonnes of food were donated between April and September, the trust figures show.
Food bank volunteers meet clients over a cup of tea or a free hot meal, and direct them to agencies equipped to solve their longer-term problem.
The trust, which has launched more than 260 food banks nationally, predicts it will feed 200,000 people between 2012 and 2013.
This compares to 26,000 fed nationwide in 2008-09; 41,000 in 2009-10; 61,468 in 2010-11 and 128,697 in 2011-12.
The majority of those who used food banks between April and September this year were aged 25 to 64, followed by 16 to 24 and over-65.
Most – some 34,606 - cited a delay in their benefits as the main reason for turning to a food bank. Some 18,451 cited low income, while 14,392 said benefit changes were the primary cause.
Less than 5 per cent of food bank clients are homeless, the Trussell Trust says. “Many are working families struggling to make ends meet,” it says.
To find out more, visit www.trusselltrust.org.