Twenty-six bishops have written a letter condemning the Government's "punitive" welfare reforms which they say have forced people into food and fuel poverty.
In an open letter to the Daily Mirror to mark the beginning of Lent on March 5, the bishops said that too many people were having to choose between "heat or eat" as a result of "cut backs and failures in the benefit system".
They said that politicians had a "moral imperative" to do more to control food price hikes and to make sure that the welfare system offered the poor an essential safety net from hunger.
The Anglican bishops write: "Half a million people have visited food banks in the UK since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year.
"We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must 'heat or eat' each winter, harder than those faced by families whose wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years.
"Yet beyond even this we must, as a society, face up to the fact that over half of people using food banks have been put in that situation by cut backs to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions."
They added: "We call on government to do its part: acting to investigate food markets that are failing, to make sure that work pays, and to ensure that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger."