An ITV News survey shows the strain being felt by the UK's independent food banks.
The issues causing the rise in food poverty are more complex than the Left Right ping-pong about the recession and austerity suggests.
The Trussell Trust has said that over 300,000 people were given emergency handouts between 2011 and 2012, 120,000 of those children.
At least 60,000 adults will rely of foodbanks to feed their families this Christmas, according to the Trussell Trust.
Chief executive Chris Mould dubbed fresh data exposing the UK's growing food poverty problem as a "deeply distressing reality".
– Chief executive of The Trussell Trust Chris Mould
The deeply distressing reality for Britain this Christmas is that thousands of families will struggle to put food on the table.
Some 60,000 people are likely to receive emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in the two weeks over Christmas alone, including 20,000 children.
We're already meeting parents who are choosing between eating and heating, and rising fuel prices mean that this winter is looking bleak for people on the breadline.
Some 40% of UK households admitted their ability to put food on the table for their family had worsened over the past 12 months, according to new data.
A survey from Tesco, The Trussell Trust and food redistribution charity FareShare found:
- 28% of adults had struggled to buy their regular amount of healthy and nutritious food over the last year.
- 30% say they have either skipped meals, gone without or relied on family or friends for food.
- Among those who experienced food poverty, 60% say they will go without heating to provide food.
Over one quarter of adults has found it harder to feed their family during the last 12 months, research has shown.
At least 27% found it harder to put food on the table and a further 20% skipped a meal because they can not afford the ingredients.
Over a third, 37%, of UK households admitted to keeping the heating off to ensure that food is available for their children, according to data collected by Tesco, The Trussell Trust and food redistribution charity FareShare.
FareShare chief executive Lindsay Boswell said: "We're now supporting more than 1,000 frontline charities that offer a hot meal and invaluable support to 51,000 people every day.
"Alarmingly, one in five people turning to these charities for help are children under the age of 16."
Reinvigorating the economy is the answer to the food poverty crisis and not further state intervention, according to the Institute for Economic Affairs.
A study commissioned by the Trussell Trust revealed three times as many people received a food package between April and September, as the same period last year.
Ruth Porter said ensuring economic recovery was the "ultimate answer" in tackling poverty, arguing high taxation and state intervention was not the solution.
However, Tim Nichols from Child Poverty Action insists there are things that can be done to make it fairer for those struggling at the bottom such as tackling tax-dodging.
Labour's new shadow work and pension secretary, Rachel Reeves, has said figures showing an increase in the use of food banks reflects the situation of 'struggling families'.
Ms Reeves said many of those using food banks were in employment, but were still struggling to cope with the cost of living.
The Labour MP suggested the figures reflected an economy which was not doing well for "ordinary people".
An increase in the use of food banks can be put down to the Government lifting a block on job centres advising claimants to use them, according to the Prime Minister's spokesman.
He suggested it was all in the "proud tradition" of Britain's voluntary sector providing additional support.
"This government has lifted the block on job centres being able to point people in the direction of the additional assistance that food banks provide," said his spokesman.
He said that the use of foodbanks had risen tenfold under the previous government.
Asked if there should be an inquiry into the increased use of foodbanks, he said it was always open to a Commons Select Committee to do so.
"Something very serious" is happening "at the bottom of our society" as more and more people use food banks, the Government's poverty tsar told Daybreak.
Frank Field said he had approached the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead an inquiry into the explosion of demand for food banks.
He also expressed shock at how many people needed them to get by.
"If you said to me 30-years-ago that I would be coming on television to talk about this I would have advised you to go into a dark room and actually lie down," he said.
Field admitted the causes behind food poverty were complex, but hit out at the "huge number of landlords" who do not provide kitchens, leaving tenants with only a microwave and pushing them into "expensive diets".
A food bank charity is calling for an inquiry into the explosion of the number of people relying them, as they found demand for their services "tripled" in the space of a year.
"The numbers are rising fast. That is why we believe we need to grip the problem and understand what is behind it," said Chris Mould.