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UK food banks report ‘shocking’ rise in demand

The number of Britons tapping food banks for emergency provisions nearly tripled in the last 12 months, a charity said on Wednesday, suggesting the U.K.'s economic recovery might not be benefiting its poorest citizens.

The Trussell Trust, which operates the U.K.'s largest food bank network, reported a "shocking" 163 percent rise in the number of Britons needing food aid between April 2013 and March 2014.

Over 900,000 (913,138) people received three days' emergency food during the period, compared to 346,992 in the previous year.

"Despite signs of economic recovery, the poorest have seen incomes squeezed even more than last year," said the Trussell Trust in a news release on Wednesday.

The charity, which operates around 400 food banks across the country, provides vouchers for food boxes to needy households. These contain a minimum of three days' worth of non-perishable items such as powdered milk, tinned fruit, vegetables and meat and cereal, all of which are donated.

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The Trussell Trust attributed the rise in food poverty to static incomes, rising living costs, low pay, underemployment and delays in receiving welfare benefits, or changes to welfare payments.

Benefit delays were the most commonly given reason for using food banks, cited by almost one-third of users. Low income and changes to welfare payments were the next most common causes.

The Trussell Trust

"That 900,000 people have received three days' food from a food bank, close to triple the numbers helped last year, is shocking in 21st century Britain," said the Trussell Trust.

"Perhaps most worrying of all, this figure is just the tip of the iceberg of U.K. food poverty. It doesn't include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no food bank, people who are too ashamed to seek help, or the large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food."

A recession in the U.K. has seen living standards decline over the last six years, with inflation consistently running ahead of wage growth. However, economic data in recent months has pointed to an upturn.

Most recently, official numbers on Wednesday showed unemployment fell to a five-year low of 6.9 percent in the three-month period to February 2014. In addition, the Office of National Statistics said that wages rose in line with inflation, for the first time since April 2010.

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