47 bishops and over 600 non-conformist leaders and clergy from across all the major Christian denominations in Britain have co-signed a new letter calling for urgent Government action on food poverty . The letter, in support of the End Hunger Fast campaign, marks the biggest ever Christian intervention on UK food poverty in modern times and comes as other faith groups join the campaign.
The letter comes as Trussell Trust statistics, to be released under embargo for 16th April show that over 900,000 people received three days emergency food aid in the 2013/14 financial year, nearly triple the number helped in the previous year and the biggest rise in use ever recorded.
Letter signatories include the Archbishop of Wales and leaders from every major Christian denomination in the UK; Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical Alliance, Methodist, Baptist and United Reform Church. The letter calls the situation “shocking” and asks the Government to “commit fully to the independent inquiry on the rise of UK hunger”.
The 600 co-signatories include vicars, ministers, reverends and other Christian leaders of all denominations angry at seeing food poverty on the front line at their local food banks and churches up and down the country.
Faith leaders are growing increasingly concerned at the inaction by the politicians to protect the poorest and most vulnerable in society. The Government has yet to act on the original letter, signed by 27 Bishops in February, or acknowledge a 75,000 strong change.org End UK Hunger petition, delivered to Downing Street last month ahead of the March 2014 budget.
Three 40 day no-food fasting church leaders deliver letter to Cameron, Clegg and Miliband constituency offices as campaign holds April 16th London vigil.
Copies of the letter will be delivered to the constituency offices of David Cameron (Witney), Ed Miliband (Doncaster) and Nick Clegg (Sheffield) by three Christian leaders, who have been fasting for 40 days over Easter and Lent. Mansfield Parish Priest Keith Hebden, Grimsby Chaplain Simon Cross and Catholic Missionary Scott Albrecht will be joined by local bishops, vicars and food bank volunteers in a show of support.
To mark the completion of their Easter and Lent fast to draw attention to UK hunger, End Hunger Fast supporters are planning a vigil, including speeches and a symbolic breaking of bread outside the Houses of Parliament. It will take place at Old Palace Yard, today at 6pm, Wednesday 16th April on the same day as the Christian leader’s letter is published.
Keith Hebden, End Hunger Fast campaign spokesperson and Mansfield Parish Priest said:
“With benefit changes, poverty wages and failing food markets leaving 900,000 people needing food aid Britain has become the hungry man of Europe.”
“The Government ignores this call at its peril. I have never before seen religious leaders so united on an issue and I hope our collective words and prayers reach the ears of politicians who have the power to act”
“All they need now is some courage, faith and compassion and we might just build a society where no-one need go hungry in Britain”
Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford said
“Being hungry is one of the most miserable experiences and being hungry day after day, month after month, with all its consequences of illness, weakness and inability to work, must be desperate. ”
“I am very pleased to support the End Hunger Fast campaign, though of course I regret that it is necessary in 21stcentury Britain.”
Trussell Trust Chief Executive David McAuley said:
“I have only eaten one meal a day for the last 40 days, and it is tough. Hunger hurts. And it doesn’t just hurt, you can’t sleep or concentrate and it affects your health. The difference is I had a choice. 900,000 people received three days’ food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013/14, which is shocking in the seventh richest country in the world. We are so encouraged to see church leaders across the UK standing up on behalf of the poorest, the growing public support for action against UK hunger is what gives us hope for change. We must not give up.” Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty said: ”It’s time that Government recognized the urgent need to stem the growing tide of food poverty and hunger in the UK. This is too important an issue to leave to party politics. End Hunger Fast has shown the depth of public support, now is the time for action.”
Steve Clifford, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, said:
“The main political parties in the UK must be as concerned, as all of us are, that a section of our population is facing crisis levels of hunger which we normally associate with countries in the developing world. It’s deeply disturbing to learn that this situation has been allowed to happen right here on our doorsteps. Indeed, last year more than 5,500 people were admitted to UK hospitals suffering with malnutrition. No one should be allowed to go hungry in Britain.”
Backing from every single major Christian group in UK for End Hunger Fast call for action on food poverty
Meanwhile the Evangelical Alliance, the UK’s largest and oldest evangelical Christian group representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians, added its significant voice to Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Quaker and United Reform Church leaders, joining End Hunger Fast’s call for action on welfare, wages and food markets.