A RECORD number of food banks are giving out emergency aid to residents who cannot afford to eat.

Twenty one groups now operate in Brighton and Hove, giving out more than 20,000 food parcels every year, the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership has revealed.

That is a 58 per cent increase compared with 2014, a rise dubbed “shocking” by Whitehawk Foodbank’s Anne Amner.

“With the increases we’ve seen at our food bank recently, it’s not surprising,” she said.

“But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be shocked by it.

“Food banks are part of the fabric of our society now.

“Every single week we pray for the end of them.”

Two thirds of food banks in the city reported a rise in families needing emergency food parcels.

But the increase is part of a wider trend in the changing causes of food bank use.

This year, delays with benefit payments are still the biggest factor driving people to use food banks.

But the proportion of users who need emergency food parcels simply because they do not earn enough has skyrocketed.

Two in five food bank users give low income as the reason they use a food bank compared with one in five last year.

“When half or more of your income goes to rent, food becomes a lower priority,” said Ms Amner.

“The problem is those on Universal Credit are usually receiving everything they’re entitled to but it’s just not enough.

“If they’re in rent arrears or debt, so much of their money is deducted from their monthly payments, not to mention if they have court payments.

“They end up with almost nothing left.”

Food banks are only intended for short-term emergency use.

But the worry is many Brighton residents are forced to rely on them in the long term.

Brighton and Hove Food Partnership director Vic Borrill called the trend “deeply concerning”.

“We are seeing an increase in demand for long-term support from people who just don’t have enough to make ends meet in our expensive city,” she said.

“It’s not just people who are unemployed or unable to work.

“We are reporting an increase in demand from people who are in work, from people who are struggling with housing, and from families with children.”

But this is just the tip of the iceberg, said Mrs Borrill.

“More people are experiencing need but are unwilling or unable to access food banks,” said Mr Borrill.