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Food poverty is an outrage, says Bishop of Sheffield

18 October 2019

Dr Wilcox speaks before an End Hunger UK event at Sheffield Cathedral

GAVIN AITCHISON

Campaigners outside Sheffield Cathedral on Wednesday

Campaigners outside Sheffield Cathedral on Wednesday

IT IS an “outrage” that “hundreds of thousands of people every week live in food poverty” in the UK, the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Pete Wilcox, said on Wednesday.

Speaking before an End Hunger UK event at Sheffield Cathedral, Dr Wilcox said: “It is a mark of the civilisation of a society, how well it provides for its most vulnerable and deprived communities. For Christians, the words of Jesus ring in our ears: ‘I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me’.

“Much as I am proud of the foodbanks and other vital projects run by churches to relieve the needs of individuals in need, the fact is that the time has come to act now to end UK hunger. I warmly support the campaign.”

This week has been End Hunger UK’s “week of action”. On Wednesday, a coalition of national and local charities, anti-poverty organisations, and faith groups called for a government-led plan across all departments to tackle the causes of food insecurity and to free millions of people from hunger over the next decade.

Niall Cooper, who chairs the organisation, said: “We all want to live in a country where everyone has access to good food and no one needs to go to bed hungry, but we need action to make that a reality. The UK Government and all parties need to commit to drawing up a clear road-map to end food poverty, and must act now to end hunger.”

At Sheffield Cathedral, members of the coalition and those with personal experience of food poverty gathered to launch the campaign. A choir comprising foodbank clients and supporters from a Sheffield foodbank, the Gleadless Valley Food Bank, performed.

Mr Cooper continued: “The UK has no shortage of food. The problem is one of incomes: too many working and non-working households are being hamstrung by insufficient wages and a benefits system that does not cover people’s essential costs. Charitable emergency food provision has proliferated in the UK in the past decade, and large numbers of people have been forced to turn to food-aid providers. In the sixth wealthiest nation on the planet, this is simply not right.

“Politicians must listen to the experiences and insights of people who have been caught in a rising tide of poverty and debt, and the national target must be to halve household food insecurity by 2025, as a step to ending it by 2030.”

The chief executive of the Trussell Trust, Emma Revie, said on Wednesday that hunger in the UK was not about food, but about money. “We’re a country of people that believe in justice and compassion,” she said. “We have the power to reach a future where no one needs a foodbank, but to get there we need our Government to ensure those strongly held values are lived out in policies that anchor people from poverty.”

During the summer, churches were among organisations that will provide food and activities to children who would otherwise go hungry over the summer holidays without free school meals (News, 16 August).

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