British society must not revert to "times of Charles Dickens" and leave the nation's poorest families in desperate need of food and clothes, a leading charity has warned.
Action for Children said the nation "can't go back" to the scenes of desperation described by the Victorian author.
The comments come after the charity said it has been regularly sending families to food and clothes banks for the first time since the 1940s.
Action for Children spokesman Jacob Tas said a "staggering" number of its centres were showing families where they could obtain emergency supplies.
Some families are being forced to choose between eating, paying for heating or the rent, he said.
Almost two-thirds (62%) of the charity's 220 children's centres said they aere "regularly" signposting families in need to food banks, according to its annual report, The Red Book.
And 21% of managers of the charity's intensive family support services are signposting those in need to clothes banks, said the report released earlier this year.
Mr Tas said: " It's painful and unfortunate that we have now entered in a time when we go back in comparison to the 1940s. It's really horrible for those families who are basically already at the bottom of the food chain that they have to go to go to food banks to get their food.
"Some families now have to make a choice between either paying the rent, paying for heating or paying for food. We are talking about children that are cold at home and are hungry and that is in 2013, which is really painful for everybody involved.
"In this very wealthy country, we are in the top 10 of the richest in the world, yet here we have a two-tier society where people are struggling to feed and clothe themselves.
"We can't go back to the times of Charles Dickens where at Christmastime we are handing out food and clothes. We should be more advanced in our opinion of society where we take care of those who need help the most."
He said that there are a number of contributing factors to the rise in people seeking help for basic necessities including the economy, unemployment, changes to the benefits system and cuts to services.
"T hese families are facing the maximum squeeze from all sides," he said.