Tory MP Paul Maynard has come under fire after warning that people could get into a "habit" of relying on emergency parcels from food banks.
Maynard, who works for minister of state Oliver Letwin, said people should value "personal responsibility" and not see visiting food banks as a normal activity.
“I do not believe that immediate food relief should be the role of the government. We can’t make food banks part of the welfare state," he said at a food poverty summit held by Manchester Evening News and the Manchester Food and Drink Festival.
“What I don’t want to do is normalise food poverty. In Canada you have people going to food banks every week and it can become a habit. But there is more government can do.
Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, added: “We work with supermarkets who push up prices by rejecting funny-shaped fruit and vegetables – I’d like to see them sold cheaply in local shops.
"It’s not about subverting the markets, it’s about getting supermarkets to think more about what they do.”
Maynard's comments come after education secretary Michael Gove suggested people were forced to use food banks due to "poor financial management". Chancellor George Osborne also admitted he had never visited a food bank.
According to analysis from the Trussell Trust, the UK's largest network of food banks, the number of people relying on emergency food handouts has tripled.
Food bank owners hit back at Maynard's comments, with London Street Food Bank head Peter Strauss telling HuffPostUK: "Mr Maynard's comments are very unhelpful."
In response to the furore, Maynard told his local paper the Blackpool Gazette: “The point I was making was there is a division of opinion about the extent to which the Government should be running food banks.
“There are whole issues we can work on to make sure people aren’t in food poverty, but depending on short-term relief doesn’t tackle the long-term problem.”