Iain Duncan Smith has been accused of being out of touch by Britain’s largest food bank charity.
The Work and Pensions Secretary was criticised for claiming that the reason behind the explosion in demand for the lifeline service was a growth in awareness rather than the effect of recent benefit cuts.
He was also blasted for claiming that this was also the view of the Trussell Trust charity.
But now the Trust’s chief executive Chris Mould has accused Mr Duncan Smith of being “disingenuous”.
In a letter to Labour MP Luciana Berger, he said: “We saw a clear and strong link between benefit changes and benefit delays, and people needing help from our food banks.”
He said it would be “incredibly useful for politicians to get out and listen to those on the receiving end” of April’s welfare reforms.
And Ms Berger added: “It’s shameful that the Work and Pensions Secretary is so out of touch about why people are being forced to rely on emergency food aid.”
The row comes as thousands of Britain’s poorest children face starving this summer while schools are shut for the six-week holiday.
It means that many will miss out on a free lunch.
Charity bosses say they are now seeing children in Lancashire with pot bellies, sunken cheeks and sallow complexions like youngsters found in famine-ravaged countries.
Meanwhile in London and Bristol the charity Kids Company is feeding 2,000 children a day.
Spokesman Laurence Guinness said: “Some children dread the holidays because they know they will have to fend for themselves.”
Sunday Mirror reporter Ben Glaze finds out what it’s really like on the poverty frontline
If Iain Duncan Smith wants to know what life is really like for poverty-stricken Britons he should spend half an hour at Oldham Food Bank.
I volunteered at the bank – one of Britain’s busiest – to see for myself the scale of our food crisis.
At first I was a bit cynical, suspecting that some people might be there for a hand-out rather than being in genuine need. But then I saw the first visitor of the day.
I watched in disbelief as the 40-year-old man explained that he had just been released from hospital after a suicide bid. A doctor advised him to visit the centre in the hope of an emergency parcel.
A volunteer hands the man enough food for 24 hours – cereal, ravioli and dried milk. To him, the box is a lifeline.
He is one of dozens of people I saw receiving help during my week at the food bank.
IDS would need to spend just an hour there to see how welfare cuts are causing a surge in demand.
Again and again people turned up and said reductions to benefits had left them struggling to feed their families.
The Trussell Trust-backed centre in Greater Manchester has strict rules to prevent people exploiting or becoming reliant on the generosity of donors, who give items such as tinned vegetables, packs of pasta and cartons of orange juice.
One of the most tragic cases I saw was on my second day at the food bank.
A woman arrived with a voucher and claimed to be entitled to a parcel. But she was trying to redeem her fifth voucher in the past few weeks – the limit is three in six months.
People who turn up trying to break the rules are stopped by food bank volunteer Lisa Leunig.
She checks every claim against the centre’s database to see how many parcels the person has already received – and prevent “voucher hopping”.
The mum-of-three, 46, says: “A lot of them think it’s OK if they go to one agency and get a voucher, then the next week go to a different one.
“But we check so they can’t do it.”
But this woman isn’t trying to cheat anyone… she is just trying to feed her family.
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