Most WI members have donated supplies, money or volunteered at local foodbanks, research suggests.
The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) said it feared adults would continue to rely on supplies from foodbanks unless the Government took more action to tackle the issue.
Ann Jones of the NFWI said: “Historically, the WI was at the frontline of supplying food to a country ravaged by war; but today it is clear that WI members are battling to tackle food insecurity on a very different front – via donations to food banks and soup kitchens.
“Food poverty is a very real issue, and we have found from our survey that WI members are taking the initiative and donating to food banks and other organisations in their communities.
“Whilst it is heartening to see the public stepping in like this, this is really just a sticking plaster and there is only so much that can be expected from civil society.
“We know that WI members have a strong sense of social responsibility but we were still taken aback by the sheer numbers of people who are contributing to food aid efforts. It seems that the Government is not only leaving people to go hungry, but is also relying on the British public to plug the gaps it has left behind.
“We want to see the Government take meaningful action to ensure individuals and families are not swept up into food poverty in the first place. As a first step, the NFWI would like the Government to start measuring the scale of the problem, as well as appoint a dedicated Food Insecurity Minister to address the issue root and branch.”
Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, which runs hundreds of foodbanks, commented: “We’re seeing the highest levels of need for food banks ever in our network, and it’s only with the generous support of people like WI members that food banks are able to provide vital emergency help.”
The survey of over 4,200 WI members found that almost four out of five had donated to a local foodbank.
A Government spokesman said: “Household incomes have never been higher and the number of children living in workless households is at a record low, but we know there’s more to do ensure that every family has access to nutritious, healthy food.
“We already provide support through free school meals and our healthy start vouchers, while we spend £90 billion a year on working-age welfare and will be spending £28 billion more by 2022 than we do now.”