Boris Johnson’s government has been told it must as a “matter of urgency” organise cash grants to stop children and vulnerable people going hungry following a no-deal Brexit.
An alliance of charities has written to Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, and Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal planning, to issue the warning.
Sustain, which represents organisations that provide food for people in need, said donations from the public could “dry up” if food prices spike.
“We need to be clear with you that food banks and frontline charities are in no position to respond to such an eventuality, having neither the money nor storage to stockpile food, often being run by volunteers, and many being already over-stretched meeting current need,” the letter seen by HuffPost UK said.
Rudd has previously said the government was looking at the possibility of introducing a “hardship fund” to help people cope with food price rises.
Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on July 14 if the fund was in place, Rudd said the department was ready “should we need it”.
Sustain said: “As a matter of urgency, we ask you to publish details of how such a national hardship fund would be put in place and delivered, to guarantee that vulnerable adults and children will not go hungry in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”
The letter demands “as a first priority” cash grants for “the increasing number of people trying to manage on a very low income”.
A second tier of money should be made available via suitable public sector institutions to agencies and frontline charities “including those who serve especially vulnerable people living in destitution or with no recourse to public funds”.
It continues: “We are becoming increasingly concerned about what would happen to the food supplies for these vulnerable people in the event of a no deal Brexit.”
Representatives from the alliance, which includes the Trussell Trust and Fareshare, met with the government on July 8.
But they are becoming increasingly concerned that the promised hardship fund pledged by Rudd will not materialise.
Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain said: “In private our government anticipates months of delays at ports if we leave the EU without a deal, but in public continues to provide unconvincing assurances about the country’s readiness.
“Port delays – official or unofficial – will very quickly disrupt our ‘just in time’ fresh food supplies. Disrupting food imports on 31 October is an especially bad time for fresh food as it is the end of the British fruit and vegetable growing season.
“It is the most vulnerable - hospital patients, care home residents and food bank users – who will feel the effects first.
“The government needs to come clean with the public about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on our food supplies, and must put the hardship fund in place as soon as possible to reassure those most at risk from food disruption and price rises.”