Shocking new figures showing a huge increase in families relying on charities for their weekly meals have been dubbed the “tip of the iceberg”.

Record numbers of people are being forced to use foodbanks on a regular basis, relying on handouts of food and household goods.

The Trussell Trust, a leading foodbank charity, published new figures last week showing huge surges in usage in south east London.

In Greenwich alone, 7,535 emergency good supplies were given out in the last year – marking a five per cent increase on the year before.

Councillor Averil Lekau, cabinet member for anti-poverty at Greenwich Council, said the figures are incredibly disappointing.

She said: “It is shocking that Greenwich residents are not only dependent on emergency food aid but that the number of those in need is increasing.

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“As part of Royal Greenwich’s drive to ensure school-aged children receive regular meals, a programme was launched last year to tackle hunger during school holidays and we are pleased to have been able to fund and provide nutritious meals to over 7,000 children at drop-in centres across the borough.

“Our borough is one of the most deprived local authorities in the country and we’re doing what we can, but central government austerity measures and increasing costs have left us with a £125million shortfall, which is having a disastrous impact.

“Central government must take immediate action before our borough slips further into poverty.”

In neighbouring Bexley, there has been an even bigger increase of 38 per cent.

Bexley Foodbanks reported its usage tripling earlier this year following an investigation by the Local Democracy Service finding clients queuing outside in the street waiting to get vital food parcels.

More than 7,800 people had the three-day emergency handout between April 2018 and March 2019, according to the trust’s new data.

A spokesman for Bexley Council said supporting residents out of financial difficulties is a priority.

They said: “We provide funding for the Citizens Advice Bureau to provide debt advice and budgeting support to residents.

“We also work with Kent Savers credit union to support residents to clear rent arrears. We also provide discretionary housing payments to help residents whose Housing Benefit or Universal Credit payments do not fully cover their rent.

“The council hosts a regular Welfare Advice Providers Forum, which includes the local food banks, to review how we can work in partnership to best support the residents of the borough.”

Universal Credit was designed to make the benefit system easier by combining payments into one, but it has had widespread criticism over complications and delays, leading some of Bexley’s poorest residents to use charities to get by day-to-day.

Tom Copley, London Assembly Member, said it is “scandalous” there is a growing dependence on food banks.

“Whilst the Government is well aware of the key factors that are driving so many local families into food poverty, they are choosing not to act,” the Londonwide representative said.

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“Instead, they are shamefully passing on their duty of care to most vulnerable in society onto charities and a beleaguered public sector.

“Sadly, these figures are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg, but they should provide a wakeup call for the Government.

“They must now urgently step in to address the issue of low pay and fully confront the consequences of their disastrous welfare reforms.”

The picture in Bromley is not any different, with the Trussell Trust reporting 5,045 food packages – a 20 per cent increase – being handed out in the last year.