The biggest study yet undertaken into food bank use in the UK has been published, painting a bleak picture of modern life for those who need the service. The research, carried out at Oxford University, found many food bank users experiencing profound poverty and destitution, and struggling to buy food and pay bills.

The study warns that benefit freezes and the continued rollout of welfare changes such as universal credit and cuts to disability payments are likely to drive up food bank use in future years. It calls for a review of the current freeze, pointing out that as the cost of living rises, welfare payments are likely to provide inadequate protection from severe food insecurity and destitution for many households.

Most food bank users reported that they were unable to afford to buy sufficient food, as well as finding it difficult to pay the rent, heat their home or buy clothes and toiletries. This should be regarded as a “serious health concern”, the report says.

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