The government today accused food bank operators of profiteering and "publicity-seeking", after new figures revealed a surge in the number of people resorting to their use.
Senior government figures hit out at Chris Mould of the Trussell Trust after he claimed that "unfair and harsh benefits sanctions" had caused a huge rise in the number of people using food banks.
"In the last year we've seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low incomes," he said, revealing that almost three times as many people had sought emergency food this year.
"It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions."
One senior government source told the Daily Mail that Mould was guilty of "fairly misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity seeking."
They added: "It's not entirely surprising given Chris Mould is effectively running a business."
The war of words emerged as the government came under fire from more than 600 church leaders, urging them to do more to tackle food poverty.
"What we are saying to the government is can you at least acknowledge that there is a real problem here?" the Archbishop of Wales said.
"It's incredible that in a country as relatively wealthy as ours, where we talk of economic recovery, there are still people who have to depend on food handouts to feed their families."
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said the food bank campaign was merely a "marketing activity" for Mould's business and insisted that poverty was actually decreasing.
"Even the OECD says there are fewer people struggling with their food bills compared with a few years ago," a spokesperson said.
"Benefit processing times are improving and the Trussell Trust’s own research recognises the effect their marketing activity has on the growth of their business."