As out-of-touch politicians worth more than a combined £300 million clamour for the top job, eight in 10 food banks now rely on back-up funds to feed ever-more desperate families.
Fourteen million Brits living in poverty face being plunged further into deprivation as the cost-of-living crisis worsens, with energy bills predicted to hit £3,363 a year.
Yet this week it was revealed that Prime Minster Johnson spent £7,000 on a rug and £3,675 on a drinks trolley as part of his lavish refurb at No.10.
In Newcastle upon Tyne, donations to the East End Women foodbank began to dry up in March. Last month they posted an appeal on Facebook with pictures of near-empty shelves.
Dawn Emmerson, who helps run the service, said: “As soon as donations come in, they go straight out again.”
Last night Liam Byrne, Labour MP for one of Britain’s poorest constituencies, Hodge Hill in Birmingham, acccused the Tories of being out of touch.
He said: “While the Tory party is running a beauty parade of multi-millionaires to be its next leader, the candidates are boasting about their plans for tax cuts for the richest – yet not one has mentioned the crisis of children going hungry.
“It tells you everything you need to know about a party out of touch and out of time.”
Tanisha Bramwell, who runs Bramwells food bank hit by falling donations in Dewsbury, West Yorks, said: “After a decade of Tory government we’ve got more food banks than McDonald’s takeaways.
“Boris was terrible, but I don’t see any of this lot being any better. Paying over £3,000 for a drinks trolley when families have to accept vouchers to feed children is beyond belief – obscene.”
Among leadership contenders so far are Rishi Sunak, who has a personal wealth of around £200million and £720m when combined with his wife’s riches.
Britain has more than 2,500 food banks compared to 1,300 McDonald’s.
And four out of five of the food lifelines have seen donations fall this year as families focus on looking after themselves amid increasing energy bills, soaring food costs and the biggest inflation rate in four decades.
Labour MP Ian Byrne, for Liverpool West Derby, said: “ I delivered a letter to Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson about food poverty but I was ignored.
“A man whose family is worth over half a billion pounds has got no idea about food insecurity.”
Food banks across the country are making desperate appeals to help starving families. Carol Kilgannon of Helping Hands Changing Lives CIC in Warrington, Cheshire, said: “Some families are travelling from food hub to food hub just to survive.”
The group used to send two vans to Morrisons to pick up donations but it now fits in the boot of one car.
The Trussell Trust, which works closely with independent foodbanks, says demand has surged since the £20 Universal Credit cut last October.
Even the Salvation Army, which operates in around 650 communities and is supported by major supermarkets, is struggling to stay afloat in some areas.
Lt Col Dean Pallant said: “It’s getting tougher to keep the shelves stocked.”
Christine Siddall, who runs the Hart food bank in Fleet, Hampshire, said the Tories must come up with an urgent plan to help hard-up families.
She said:“I wonder how many of the candidates know how much a pint of milk or a loaf of bread is.”
In South Manchester Steph Moore, who runs Reach Out to the Community, says the situation is scary, forcing them to ration supplies.
Hana Hainsby, who runs a food bank in the historic market town of Bishop’s Stortford, Herts, highlighted the irony that the area has a Waitrose and a private school – yet has seen a big rise in people seeking food parcels.
In Pendle, Lancs, Pendle Food For All was forced to temporarily close its doors this week for lack of supplies.
Meanwhile ministers who quit to oust Mr Johnson are being urged by the Lib Dems to offer their severance pay to fund free school meals over summer.
Resigning frontbenchers are entitled to 25% of annual salary. The expected £245,487 bill for taxpayers could fund a meal for over 80,000 children.
Lisa Atkinson relies on food donations to feed her two sons.
While she is grateful for regular deliveries from East End Women food bank in Walker, Newcastle, she says there is now less food in their bags.
“I don’t know how much more I can tighten my belt without cutting myself in half,” she said.
Lisa, 42, who has sons Michael, 19, and Matthew, eight, gave up her secretarial job to care for her terminally ill dad.
She relies on £440 a month Universal Credit and Michael’s £393 a month.
Dad-of-two Lee Probert has struggled since losing his job erecting boxing rings at the start of the Covid lockdown.
Lee, 40, of Wigan, Gtr Manchester, who gets £595 Universal Credit a month, depends on the local Brick foodbank.
He said: “Until a couple of months ago I could get three or four meals out of the food parcels, but now there are fewer essentials.
“There’s no tinned meat, tuna, butter or milk.
“I’d love some cheese and maybe cordial, but that’s too much to ask the way things are.”