MORE people are turning to foodbanks in Merseyside than anywhere else in the country with one person accessing the service every nine minutes.
Disturbing figures released today by the Trussel Trust reveal the region is England's food bank capital with 56,111 people a year – or 154 per day – rely on emergency food parcels and basic household supplies.
More than 20,000 of those using the foodbank services are children.
The Trussell Trust, which has a centre in Birkenhead, says people are turning to foodbanks in ever-increasing numbers, despite signs of economic recovery.
The trust believes the rise has been caused by static incomes, rising living costs, low pay, underemployment and welfare problems.
The crisis has seen 138,644 people in the North west receive three days' emergency food in the last year, with national figures showing that 913,000 people have also relied on the parcels.
Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould said the figures are just the “tip of the iceberg.”
He said: “That 138,644 people in the North west have received three days’ food from a foodbank, more than triple the numbers helped last year, is shocking in 21st century Britain.
“But perhaps most worrying of all, this figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK 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."
Mr Mould said in the last year, the situation has become worse rather than better for many people on low incomes: " It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.
“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low incomes, we won’t see life get better for the poorest any time soon."
Foodbanks are now uniting with other agencies to provide welfare advice, budgeting help and debt support.
They are also providing essentials such as washing powder, nappies and hygiene products to families who are at breaking point.
A letter signed by 36 Anglican bishops and 600 church leaders from all major denominations is calling for the Government to take action to tackle food poverty.
Meanwhile, Birkenhead MP Frank Field has launched an all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty in Britain.
The inquiry – due to hold its first regional session in Birkenhead on May 23 – will investigate underlying causes driving the rising demand for food aid.
It will pose key questions to each of the political parties in the run-up to the next general election about how they will respond to these trends.