Since 2009, the UK has witnessed marked increases in the rate of sanctions applied to unemployment insurance claimants, as part of a wider agenda of austerity and welfare reform. In 2013, over one million sanctions were applied, stopping benefit payments for a minimum of four weeks and potentially leaving people facing economic hardship and driving them to use food banks. Here we explore whether sanctioning is associated with food bank use by linking data from The Trussell Trust Foodbank Network with records on sanctioning rates across 259 local authorities in the UK. After accounting for local authority differences and time trends, the rate of adults fed by food banks rose by an additional 3.36 adults per 100,000 (95% CI: 1.71 to 5.01) as the rate of sanctioning increased by 10 per 100,000 adults. The availability of food distribution sites affected how tightly sanctioning and food bank usage were associated (p < 0.001); in areas with few distribution sites, rising sanctions led to smaller increases in food bank usage. In conclusion, sanctioning is closely linked with rising food bank usage, but the impact of sanctioning on household food insecurity is not fully reflected in available data.