MORE than twice the number of people were forced to rely on Cornwall’s food banks last year than in 2011, latest figures reveal.
Doctors and social workers referred 12,115 people to food banks in 2013, compared with 4,959 three years ago.
Organisers the Trussell Trust said nationwide there had been a 76 per cent increase in the number of food banks launched since April 2012 and a 170 per cent rise in the numbers of people given emergency food over the same period.
It says the increasing dependence on food banks is down to rising costs of food and fuel combined with static income, high unemployment and changes to benefits.
However, critics have suggested the boost in user numbers can be partly explained by the fact that more food banks are now available.
Jacqui White, manager of the Bodmin food bank, said: "People in need have always been with us and to some degree I guess they always will be. But it's our job to alleviate the situation of people right now."
Devon saw a similar rise to Cornwall - 5,713 users in 2011, compared to 12,912 last year. It is estimated that 13 million people now live below the poverty line in the UK.
The Trussell Trust links up with schools, churches firms and individuals to create the food banks.
A spokesman said: “Every day people in the UK go hungry for reasons ranging from redundancy to receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. Trussell Trust food banks provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in the UK.”
The government said it had helped cash-strapped families with moves such as increasing the tax-free personal allowance and freezing fuel duty.
It also claims its welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families.