THE UK Environment Secretary Therese Coffey has said that people struggling to afford food should consider working more hours and getting a higher income.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday morning, Coffey was asked by Labour MP Rachael Maskell what the government was doing to ensure that nobody in the country was going hungry.

The MP for York Central said that food banks in her area were running out of provisions due to the level of demand.

“With the ONS highlighting a 16.8% increase in food prices in the year to January, [the] government has built its food poverty infrastructure with dependency on voluntary donations and retail waste donations,” she said.

“However, due to demand food banks in York are running out, eking out food supplies. For my part, I’m holding a city-wide donation day so that those who can give, and that those who need receive.

“We call it York Together as we support one another. However, what is the government doing to ensure that no one goes without?”

Coffey then proceeded to tell Maskell that her constituents should consider working more if they didn’t want to go hungry.

She said: “Well, Mr Speaker, the Honourable Lady is right to praise the initiative in York with her constituents and I think that’s very welcome. It is an element of what can also be done locally.

“But we talk about aspects of food pricing, inflation is really tough at the moment. There’s no doubt about that.

"I’m conscious, though, that we still have a situation where generally across Europe we have one of the lowest proportion of our incomes being spent on food. Supermarkets have been very competitive, and we may discuss some of that later.

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“But I do also want to encourage her in supporting the Household Support Fund, that is intended to go to people particularly in need.

“But, of course, we do know that one of the best ways for people to boost their incomes is not only to get into work if they’re not in work already, but potentially to work some more hours, to get up-skilled, to get a higher-income.

“But, of course, the local welfare grant that was given some time ago now by central government to local councils is there for them to use, as well.”

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Maskell can be heard to say “that’s appalling” as Coffey gives way to the next question.

The latest research from the Independent Food Aid Network found that more people than ever before are depending on food banks in the UK.

It comes after Coffey was booed at the National Farmers' Union conference in Birmingham for refusing to accept that Britain's supply chain had seen "market failure" and contributed to food shortages.