Tens of thousands of families will be dependent on emergency handouts from food banks in the two weeks over Christmas, says a food redistribution charity.
The Trussell Trust says at least 60,000 people, including 20,000 children, will receive help from one of its 400 food banks over the festive period. Thousands more families will be relying on other charities for food.
The warning comes after a survey found that a quarter of adults in the UK have either skipped meals, gone without food to feed their family or relied on food help over the last year.
Some 40 per cent of UK households say their situation has worsened over the past 12 months while 28 per cent say they have struggled to buy the same amount of food that they did 12 months ago, the poll for Tesco, The Trussell Trust and the charity FareShare found.
Among those who have experienced food poverty, 60 per cent say they will go without heating to provide food, according to the poll, which marks the annual Neighbourhood Food Collection event.
Chris Mould, the chief executive of The Trussell Trust, said: "The deeply distressing reality for Britain this Christmas is that thousands of families will struggle to put food on the table. We're already meeting parents who are choosing between eating and heating."
Earlier this month Frank Field, the Labour MP for Birkenhead, said he feared that food banks would become a permanent part of the "welfare scene".
And recently Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, said: "Food banks aren't going to go away any time soon. Prices are rising more than three times faster than wages."
The Neighbourhood Food Collection will take place in every Tesco store from 29 November to 1 December.