The Government’s failure to take seriously the nation’s growing food poverty crisis has come under the spotlight today, with the launch of the End Hunger Fast campaign.
The Government finally released its own long-suppressed report into food aid overnight, in response to the publication of a joint Open letter from 43 Church leaders published in the Daily Mirror this morning.
The report, commissioned almost a year ago from the Food Ethics Council by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs, confirms the growing demand for foodbanks is driven by people in crises situations, and directly refutes the Governments claims that it is caused by the growing number of foodbanks.
The DEFRA report states that “the most feed insecure households do not always turn to food aid. The evidence suggests that turning to food aid is a strategy of last resort, when households have exhausted all other strategies.”
Worryingly, in the nine months since the report took its ‘snapshot’ last March, the situation has dramatically worsened, with many foodbanks reporting a doubling or trembling in demand since April.
Cameron and Clegg remain in denial over the impact of welfare changes
Most worrying of all has been the response of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to the Church Leaders statement that there is now an acute moral imperative to act in the face of a growing national crisis.
The Prime Minister, in claiming that ‘cutting benefits is the morally right thing to do’ has completely failed to gauge the seriousness of the situation facing hundreds of thousands across the country. Whilst there are merits in the Government’s commitment to reform the welfare system, and to make work pay, there is nothing moral in cutting benefits for people who are already struggling to make ends meet.
The comments by Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, on LBC radio today, again fail to address the reality that the Government’s own punitive policies are exacerbating an already difficult situation that thousands are facing on a daily basis. As Cardinal Vincent Nichol’s statement alluded to last week, over 800,000 people have had their benefits deliberately withdrawn as a result of an increasingly punitive sanctions regime, causing untold harm to families across the country.
This country has a proud tradition of protecting the poorest and most vulnerable. We have all grown up with an understanding that if we fall on hard times, the welfare safety net will protect us from going hungry. Sadly, for increasing numbers of people, that welfare safety net is no longer a reality.
The pendulum has swung far too far towards a punitive approach to people in poverty. It is time to restore the principles of dignity, decency to the way we respond to those who fall on hard times.
We are not a poor nation who cannot afford to look after those who struggle. We remain the seventh wealthiest nation on the planet. In a week when it was revealed that sales of Ferraris in the UK outstripped those in any other EU country, it is right for the nation’s Church Leaders to challenge those in authority to think again.
It is time to End Hunger Fast.
Sign up to show you care at http://www.endhungerfast.co.uk
Fast and donate
Please consider using the End Hunger Fast to raise funds for our work to tackle hunger. Your donations will pay for us to run public hearings, where people testify about their experiences of going hungry. Their evidence will form part of an Independent National Inquiry, which will make recommendations for how we can tackle the scandal of hunger.
Simply donate the money you would otherwise have spent on food.