Food banks in Cornwall handed out hundreds of emergency parcels every week last December – with more than two in five to children.

The UK's biggest food bank network the Trussell Trust is bracing for its busiest ever Christmas, with figures suggesting a record numbers of people in need will seek support this December.

In Cornwall, the charity handed out 2,120 three-day emergency food parcels last December, equivalent to 479 every week – including 909 (43 per cent) to children.

It meant the charity dished out 724 more parcels in the area than it did on average each month during 2018-19 – an increase of 52 per cent.

Meanwhile, separate figures published by the charity show 13 per cent more food parcels were provided between April and September than the same six months just a year before – meaning demand will is likely to be even higher this winter.

Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie warned that communities across the country are being pushed into poverty.

She said: "Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration – but for too many people it’s becoming harder and harder to keep their heads above water.

"Nine in 10 of us believe hunger in the UK is a problem – food banks cannot and should not have to continue to pick up the pieces."

The number of food parcels handed out across the charity's UK sites last December was 44 per cent higher than the monthly average for the year.

More than 186,000 parcels were given away during the month, of which two in five went to children.

Since the figures do not include hundreds of other independent food banks dotted around the country, many more parcels are likely to have been distributed over the period.

Ms Revie said she wanted candidates in the upcoming General Election to pledge to protect people from hunger.

"Our next government must start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank," she said.

"It's in our power to reach a future where everyone has enough money for the basics. This can change."

Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery said: "While so many of us will enjoy indulging over the Christmas period, it is a total scandal that more families than ever will be relying on food handouts just to save them from going hungry.

"The appalling rise in food bank use reflects the cruelty of Tory austerity. Boris Johnson's born-to-rule Conservatives don't seem to care that when they sit down for their Christmas dinners, hundreds of thousands of families will be relying on the kindness of strangers just to survive.

"This is not inevitable. The next Labour government will halve food bank usage within a year and remove the need for them altogether in three years. That is the real change that Britain needs."

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "We spend over £95 billion a year on working-age benefits and Universal Credit supports more than 2.5 million people across the UK.

"With Universal Credit people can get paid urgently if they need it and 95 per cent of payments are made in full and on time."