David Cameron has come under pressure to address the soaring number of people turning to food banks to feed themselves and their families in parts of the Westcountry.
Food bank volunteers in the region have joined welfare charity the Trussell Trust in calling on the Prime Minister to look into the "scandalous" problem of food poverty.
More than 350,000 people nationally received a three-day food package from the charity between April and September this year – three times as many as the same period last year. And the rapid increase has been matched by food banks in the Westcountry, including at Camborne, Pool, Illogan and Redruth, where 14,000 received food parcels in August, up from 3,200 the previous year.
Trussell Trust executive chairman Chris Mould said the level of food poverty in the UK had reached an unacceptable level.
"It's scandalous and it is causing deep distress to thousands of people," he said. "The time has come for an official and in-depth inquiry into the causes of food poverty and the consequent rise in the usage of food banks.
"As a nation we need to accept that something is wrong and that we need to act now to stop UK hunger getting worse."
Earlier this year, Chancellor George Osborne suggested food bank use had increased "because people have been made aware of the food bank service through local jobcentres".
However, Donovan Gardener, who runs the food bank in Camborne, Pool, Illogan and Redruth, said in the majority of cases it was down to issues with receiving welfare payment. "We are all finding exactly the same problems," he said. "One of the biggest reasons is that people are hard up on benefits. We are finding now that people are going on to benefits or having to change benefits, but that change can take up to nine weeks. You can be nine weeks without money.
"Our norm is that we provide food for crisis for three weeks – we are having to extend that. People are just getting nothing for eight weeks, they are desperate as they can't pay rent.
"We feel it's getting very serious and somebody has got to get a move on.
"We are using 1,000 tins a week – it's absolutely frightening.
"They've got to get their heads around the fact that people have no money at all."
The trust echoed concerns that some households will have to choose between eating and heating this winter.
"Problems with welfare are not new, they have existed for years – but the reality is that when welfare provision breaks down, people go hungry," continued Mr Mould.
"We're talking about mums not eating for days because they've been sanctioned for seemingly illogical reasons, or people leaving hospital after a major operation to find that their benefits have been stopped or delayed.
"It's not right that so many more people are now being referred to food banks due to problems with welfare, especially as much of this is preventable."
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said processing times had improved over the last few years."Contrary to what these organisations are suggesting, benefit processing times have steadily improved over the past few years. This year the number of benefits processed on time is up four percentage points from the 2009/10 level to 90%," he said."The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed and there is no evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks."In fact, our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities with the Universal Credit making three million households better off – the majority of these from the bottom two fifths of the income scale."