The growth of food banks is directly linked to benefit cuts such as sanctions.
It blows a hole in David Cameron’s claim that the huge rise in food bank use could be down to better advertising at Jobcentres.
The Oxford University research shows emergency food aid is most concentrated in areas where there are high levels of joblessness and benefit sanctions.
The survey, which used data supplied by Britain’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, found food banks operated in 20 council areas in 2009-10.
By 2013-14, they existed in 251 areas.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, concludes, “More food banks are opening in areas experiencing greater cuts in spending on local services and central welfare benefits and higher unemployment rates.
At the same time, the rate of food aid distribution tripled between 2010 and 2013 from about 0.6 food parcels per 100 people to 2.2 per 100.
There were stark variations between local areas, from a low of less than 0.1 food parcels per 100 people in Lichfield, Staffordshire, to a high of eight parcels per 100 people in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Higher rates of food parcel distribution are “significantly associated” with welfare cuts and austerity measures.
The author of the study, Rachel Loopstra, said it was likely to have “underestimated the true burden of food insecurity in the UK” because food aid provision is patchy and data collection is relatively crude.
A scheme which sees supermarket vouchers given to 2,000 families in Newcastle to help feed their children over the school holidays has been axed
Under Newcastle City Council’s Crisis Support Scheme, families with children aged five and six, who had their housing benefit reduced by the bedroom tax, got Asda vouchers.
But the council has scrapped the scheme. A number of Labour councils introduced similar schemes–most now set to be abolished.