Foodbank usage has risen by at least 20% in the South East over the last four years, according to a new report from Green MEP Keith Taylor.
The report 'Escalating Hunger in the South East', published on Friday details the extent to which people in the South East are having to rely on emergency food parcels as low pay and welfare cuts push more and more people into food poverty.
The report features insights from foodbanks across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent and the Isle of Wight.
In Surrey, the region's wealthiest county, foodbank dependency has more than doubled since the senior Green MEP published his first foodbank report in 2013.
Mr Taylor visits the Redhill foodbank at St Matthew's Church, which features in the report, on Friday to discuss hunger, poverty and foodbank dependency in the county with Reverend Andrew Cunnington.
Like many of the foodbanks featured in the report, St. Matthew’s is deeply concerned about the detrimental impact of Universal Credit will have on those already living below the poverty line in Surrey. Rev Cunnington is currently training up volunteers to support people applying for Universal Credit.
Commenting on the findings, Mr Taylor said:
"Foodbanks are a lifeline to those in need across the South East but, at the same time, they continue to be a stain on the government’s record on poverty and inequality. In the last four years, Conservative ministers have overseen at least a 20% rise in foodbank dependency in my constituency alone."
"Across the UK, foodbank use has soared by at least 65% with even nurses being forced to rely on emergency food parcels as the reality of Britain’s record in-work poverty levels hit home. Low income is now one of the single biggest reasons why people are forced to seek emergency food aid. In the UK, there are seven million people from working households currently living below the poverty line. And a third of children are living in poverty - despite the majority being from working families."
"Similarly, we have seen the number of rough sleepers increase 169% under the Tories while homelessness has soared. In the South East, there are now more than 27,000 people without a home. Poverty, homelessness and foodbank dependency are issues that are inexorably linked and have intensified in the last seven years. It is why foodbanks remain one of Britain's few booming industries."
"My report reveals a shameful side of the British economy that is deliberately hidden from view by the government. As wages continue to stagnate, as Brexit continues to push up the cost of living and as the government forces ahead with its welfare cuts and the disastrous rollout of Universal Credit, there is little hope this situation will improve under the current administration."
"Some will say that poverty is inevitable, no matter what you do. Greens reject this. For us, poverty is political and its elimination will always be a top priority."