The number of charities seeing young adults accessing food support for the first time has doubled in a year, according to research.

Food waste charity FareShare said its latest annual survey results showed that young people who “should be looking ahead to a brighter future” are instead “worrying about what they have to eat”.

The organisation’s 2023 survey had responses from 1,424 charities and found that 292 of them recorded people aged 18-25 accessing food support for the first time.

This was up from 140 charities out of a total of 1,223 seeing this kind of demand in the 2022 survey.

There was also a rise in the number of charities receiving requests for food support for the first time from young people in care and care leavers in 2023, at 159 compared to 50 the previous year, the organisation said.

FareShare chief executive George Wright said: “Over the past 30 years, FareShare has combatted the environmental impact of food waste by redistributing it to charities that provide other essential services which treat the root causes of food poverty, such as school clubs and community centres.

“This research shows the urgency of our mission, including supporting young people across the UK who should be looking ahead to a brighter future, not worrying about what they have to eat.

“The Government also have a key role to play. The UK lags behind Europe and the US in surplus redistribution, where tax and legislative regimes are much more favourable.

“By levelling the playing field, we can make the UK a leader in tackling food waste, and make a significant impact, both on the environment and supporting the many families across the UK in food poverty.”

The charity Action for Children said the survey results are “all the more alarming for those in or leaving the care system who often have fewer resources, smaller support networks, and no safety net” and called for the support offer for young people to “radically change” with “much more” needed to give them “the chances they need to thrive”.

A Government spokesperson said: “We are providing tailored support to help 16-24-year-olds on Universal Credit find and secure work through our youth offer, while putting more money in people’s pockets by raising the national living wage and cutting taxes.”