Food banks in Cornwall hand out hundreds of emergency food parcels every single week, with a third of them to children.

The UK's biggest food bank network the Trussell Trust recorded its busiest ever six-month period between April and September, with more than 823,000 parcels provided to people in need.

In Cornwall, the charity says it handed out 7,851 three-day emergency food parcels over the period, the equivalent of 302 every week.

Of these, 2,848 (36 per cent) went to children.

Overall, the charity dished out 921 more parcels in the area than it did during the same six-month period just a year before – an increase of 13 per cent.

Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie warned that problems with Universal Credit were pushing people into poverty, with the five-week wait for initial payments under the system a key factor behind food-bank use.

She said: "Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.

"This is not right. But we know this situation can be fixed – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty.

"It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change.”

The number of food parcels handed out across the UK in the six months to September rose by 23% compared to the previous year, the sharpest increase recorded by the charity for five years.

More than a third of food parcels – 300,000 – went to children during this period.

The biggest increase was seen in the North East of England, where the number of parcels provided increased by 84% in just one year.

This was followed by the East Midlands, with an increase of 41 per cent.

Ms Revie said she wanted to see an end to the five-week wait for Universal Credit under the next government.

"This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics," she said.

"We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five-week wait for Universal Credit, ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living, and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis."

Margaret Greenwood, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, said the increase in food bank use should be a source of shame for the Government.

She said: "These figures show clearly how harsh, punitive Conservative policies like the five-week wait in Universal Credit are pushing people to the point of destitution."

A spokeswoman from the Department for Work and Pensions said: "We spend over £95 billion a year on welfare, and have simplified the benefits system through Universal Credit.

"Free school meals are provided for 1.3 million disadvantaged children, and over £26 million has also been invested in a breakfast club programme."