FOODBANK managers in East Lancashire have called on the government to recognise the ‘difficulties’ struggling people and families face after a new report revealed the extent of country’s reliance on food charities.

The report, by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust, reveals that more than 20 million meals were given out to people at risk of going hungry in Britain last year alone – a 54 per cent increase on the previous year.

In the report, the government’s welfare reforms were branded as ‘a driver of food poverty’.

It comes as Blackburn’s Foodbank has seen 10,300 people since opening in November 2012, with Burnley’s foodbank giving out 10,000 last year and 15,000 this year.

The principle of a social security system safety net ‘appears to be under threat’, the report said, with welfare cuts having a ‘severe impact on poor and vulnerable families’.

Analysis by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty found that 20,247,042 meals were given to people in 2013/14 by the three main food aid providers – the Trussell Trust, Fareshare and Food Cycle.

The manager of Blackburn Foodbank, which is run by the Trussell Trust, Ros Duerden, said: “I think the government should show more compassion for struggling people and families.

“There is a myth that everyone who goes to foodbanks is a scrounger and that simply is not the case. Families are coming to us more and more. The government needs to restore the protection it took away from families.”

Genevieve Waite, communications co-ordinator at Burnley’s Foodbank, which is run by Community Solutions North West Ltd, said: “The focus needs to be more on the person.

“It needs to be realised that people are individuals who need to be supported.

“These are problems everyone is going through and people need a hand up.”

The Below the Breadline report said: “Protecting its citizens from going hungry is one of the most fundamental duties of government.

“Most of us have grown up with the assumption that when we fall on hard times, the social security safety net will kick in and prevent us from falling into destitution and hunger.

“The principle of this crucial safety net now appears to be under threat.”

UK food prices have increased by 43.5 per cent in the eight years to July 2013.