Christians challenged to live for one week on food parcel

12 March 2008

by Pat Ashworth

CHRISTIANS taking up a national Church Action on Poverty (CAP) challenge have been living as refused asylum-seekers for a week in Lent.

The Home Office allows refused asylum-seekers two weeks to leave their accommodation, after which the £37-a-week financial provision ceases. Some receive a basic food parcel from projects such as the Boaz Trust in Greater Manchester, which works in conjunction with the Red Cross.

Those undertaking the Lent Endurance Challenge are exchanging their weekly food budget for such a parcel. It contains ten items of tinned goods per person, and 250g each of dried pasta, rice, sugar, semolina, and salt. It also contains one sliced loaf, 12 tea bags, one carton of juice and one of milk, a fortnightly bottle of vegetable oil, a packet of biscuits, a bar of chocolate, salted peanuts, and a few pieces of fruit and vegetable. Each box costs £10.

Andrew Halstead, a lay minister in the Oldham Methodist circuit, said his family of four had been hungrier at mealtimes, and appreciated the food more. “You’ve got what you’ve got, and you have to make it work for yourselves,” he said, although, unlike his family, refused asylum-seekers might be on the streets, with no means of cooking the food items, or keeping the one carton of milk fresh.

“The advantage was that with four of us doing it we had four cartons of milk, and could open one at a time,” he said.

The family usually spends between £100 and £120 per week, and Mr Halstead acknowledged:

“We couldn’t live like that for

ever, but we managed on it. It made us ask after we’d done this what

we were buying and why were we buying it. We’re not beating ourselves up over it, but we’re just buying from week to week now,

and only what we need. And we’re happy buying the smart-price stuff.”

Basic food parcels often come about because of the good will and charity of faith and community groups, says CAP. It accuses government policies on immigration and asylum of creating “living ghosts”.

“Many feel their good grounds for claiming asylum have been poorly represented, or they simply fear returning to their home country. They are essentially airbrushed out of existence as ‘failed’ asylum-seekers, but they remain here, and this reality goes unnoticed by society at large,” the charity says.

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