A food bank charity says it has recorded its busiest ever six month period, with more than a third of its emergency parcels going to children.
The Trussell Trust, which is based in Wiltshire, runs a network of food banks across the UK.
It said more people than ever before are being forced to go to food banks, with more than 820,000 emergency food parcels given out in the past six months.
It said data shows that April to September 2019 was the busiest half-year period for food banks in the Trussell Trust's network since the charity opened.
The charity said this is a 23% increase on the same period in 2018 - the sharpest rate of increase the charity has seen for the past five years.
It said the main reasons for people needing emergency food are:
- Low benefit income (36%)
- Delays (18%)
- Changes to benefits being paid (16%)
One of the key issues people at food banks face is the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment, the charity said.
It added that although Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people at food banks experience problems with, the majority (65%) of food bank referrals made in April - Sept 2019 due to a delay in benefits being paid in the UK were linked to Universal Credit.
There are more than 1,200 food bank centres in the Trussell Trust's network across the UK, and the charity said that research from the Independent Food Aid Network shows there are at least 817 independent food banks, so the Trussell Trust network accounts for roughly two-thirds of all food banks.