THE Archbishop of Westminster has launched a initiative to tackle growing food poverty as part of his Lent appeal.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols warned last month that Brexit was likely to worsen food poverty. He said in February that he expected social need to increase “significantly” after withdrawal from the EU, and that the diocese was preparing its response.
Money raised through his annual Lent appeal this year will go to schools and parishes to support the existing work of foodbanks and school-holiday clubs which feed children outside term-time.
Teachers in schools in his diocese have reported a growing number of pupils coming to school hungry, including those who would be eligible for free school meals but whose parents are too ashamed to register for them.
Cardinal Nichols said this week: “It is saddening and shocking that there are such levels of food poverty, and homelessness, in a society as wealthy as ours. Much of this poverty is hidden. But it is real and present around us.
“So we need to increase our effort and do more not just to relieve this poverty, but also to help people to become better able to eat well, even with less to spend. This is my hope, and I know that we have the will and determination to make a difference.”
There are 24 foodbanks in the diocese of Westminster which are supported by Roman Catholic parishes. The new initiative, expanding on the work done by churches and schools, will be run by the social-action arm of the diocese, Caritas Westminster.
It is preparing to set up new locations to hand out food to those who are hungry, additional resources to help those already using foodbanks to help move towards independence, and a campaign to raise awareness of the causes of food poverty.
The appeal was launched at the St Teresa of the Child Jesus RC Church in Borehamwood, which hosts a twice-weekly foodbank. Since its opening in 2013, the foodbank has provided more than14,000 emergency food parcels.
In response to growing need, the foodbank has also expanded its services to include payments to alleviate fuel poverty, lunch clubs during school holidays, and a dedicated helpdesk from the Citizens Advice Bureau which provides advice and assistance to users.