Churches' letter to PM and fast decry hunger in UK

16 April 2014

KEITH BLUNDY

Listening: the RC Bishop of Hexham, the Rt Revd Seamus Cunningham (left) and the Bishop of Jarrow, the Rt Revd Mark Bryant, visit Gateshead foodbank, earlier this week 

Listening: the RC Bishop of Hexham, the Rt Revd Seamus Cunningham (left) and the Bishop of Jarrow, the Rt Revd Mark Bryant, visit Gateshead foodbank...

FORTY-TWO Anglican bishops and more than 600 clerics and ministers have signed an open letter demanding that politicians act to stop people going hungry in the UK.

Their letter, part of the End Hunger Fast campaign (News, 21 February), coincides with new statistics from the Trussell Trust, which says that it gave out emergency food parcels 913,000 times in the past financial year.

In the preceding 12 months, the figure given is 347,000, so that the reported increase is 163 per cent. The Trussell Trust also said that 83 per cent of its foodbanks had reported that benefits sanctions were driving people to seek food aid.

The letter to David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Ed Miliband asks them to work with the parliamentary inquiry into food poverty - co-chaired by the Bishop of Truro, and launched two weeks ago - to implement its recommendations (News, 4 April).

Among the signatories are the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, 19 other diocesan bishops, and representatives of other denominations, including the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and United Reformed Churches.

The letter says: "As we approach Easter the mind turns to the hope of spring, the promise of resurrection and renewal. Hope drives us to act.

"It drives us to tackle the growing hunger in our midst. It calls on each of us, and government too, to act to make sure that work pays, that food markets support sustainable and healthy diets, and that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger."

An associate priest at St Mark's, Mansfield, in Nottinghamshire, the Revd Dr Keith Hebden, fasted for 40 days from Ash Wednesday to back End Hunger Fast. He consumed only water and one glass of fruit juice a day. "It's been amazing to see people joining in with me who have never fasted before, and all this is putting significant pressure on the Government," he said.

"We have given people a way to speak out about the situation, and how frustrated they are. They have spoken through fasting, which is stronger than words."

Dr Hebden broke his fast on the evening of Palm Sunday with a simple meal of cauliflower mash and nettle soup. "It was slightly moving and a little bit emotional," he said.

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