The Right Revd Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester, wrote this blog for End Hunger UK.
I am both amazed and shocked by the growth of food banks in the UK – amazed by the generosity of so many volunteers and donors, but shocked that this is necessary in a country as wealthy as ours.
In the Diocese of Gloucester, Stroud District Foodbank alone has distributed around 1,860 food parcels in the past year from five centres, with the help of 50 churches and 130 volunteers – just one of at least nine food banks doing similar work across Gloucestershire and the surrounding areas. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. We know that many more people are living on cheap food, much of it unhealthy, or skipping meals, because they are too ashamed to visit a food bank.
Whilst celebrating the work that churches and other voluntary groups are doing to respond to this urgent need, it is clear to me that government and businesses could and should be doing more to reduce the need for food banks in the first place.
That is why I am delighted that the Church of England is supporting the End Hunger UK campaign, alongside a diverse coalition of voluntary sector organisations and faith groups. The campaign’s menu of recommendations are extremely practical. Many of them could be implemented at relatively little cost, but would make a real and immediate difference – for example funding local schemes so that children do not go hungry during the school holidays. Other recommendations will require more concerted and longer-term action to ensure that people are paid a decent wage and that there is an adequate safety net to support people during difficult times in their life, such as an illness or the breakdown of a relationship. If we are to eradicate food insecurity, then we must commit to these shared goals – and we need to start measuring the scale of the problem, so we can see the progress that is being made.
Campaigning for these changes is, I believe, as much a response to the Christian calling to ‘feed the hungry’ as meeting people’s immediate needs through food banks. I will be writing to the local MPs in my diocese, asking them to support this campaign. Will you join me?