© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Volunteers cart food donations from a local food bank through the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in east London, Britain, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s biggest food bank network said the amount of emergency food parcels it distributed rose 37% to a record 3 million in the year to March as more people faced hardship in a cost-of-living crisis that shows little sign of easing.

The Trussell Trust, which supports a network of 1,300 food bank centres across the United Kingdom, said on Wednesday more than a million parcels were provided for children.

It said over the year, 760,000 people used a food bank in its network for the first time, an increase of 38% year-on-year.

This included an unprecedented rise in the number of employed people, who are no longer able to balance a low income against rising living costs.

Britons have been pressured for more than a year by high inflation which has outstripped pay growth for almost all workers.

Last month government forecasters estimated UK households were in the midst of the biggest two-year squeeze in living standards since comparable records started in the 1950s.

Official UK data published last week showed overall consumer price inflation fell to 10.1% in March. However, prices of food and non-alcoholic drinks were 19.1% higher in March than a year earlier, the biggest such rise since August 1977.

Grocery inflation in April was 17.3%, according to industry data.

The Trussell Trust also noted that the number of parcels provided in the year to March was more than double the annual amount distributed by food banks five years ago.

“The continued increase in parcel numbers over the last five years indicates that it is ongoing low levels of income and a social security system that isn’t fit for purpose that are forcing more people to need food banks, rather than just the recent cost of living crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic,” Emma Revie, the trust’s chief executive, said.

She called on the UK government to ensure the benefits system covers essential costs.

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