Foodbank users need justice more than charity, says church leader

By staff writers
20 Dec 2013

The head of the Church of Scotland's Church and Society Council says that what she wants for Christmas is real justice for people currently reliant on foodbanks.

“There is a gospel bias for the poor and the Church of Scotland makes deliberate decisions to ensure that its resources, material and spiritual, correspond to that bias, not as an issue of charity, but of justice,” declared the Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the influential Kirk council.

Her comments came in the wake of a Westminster debate on foodbanks, provoked by a petition signed by 142,000 members of the public, in which many MPs on the government side were dismissive towards heart-rending stories of suffering associated with the alarming growth in food poverty across the country.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has been criticised for leaving the debate early, while Esther McVey, Minister of State for Employment and previously Minister for Disabled People, claimed that there were just 60,000 foodbank users in Britain. Oxfam and Christian charity the Tressell Trust say the figure is up to ten times that number.

Writing about the situation is Scotland on her blog, Ms Foster-Fulton continues: “In our society we are seeing a huge increase in reliance on foodbanks. Thank God there are still people who will work to tackle food poverty and food insecurity. To people who donate, who volunteer, who embody care -- thank you. Your commitment and love is inspirational. My comments aren’t meant to undermine this, but rather to ask the question ‘is this enough?’ Are we in danger of offering a band aid without looking for the source of the bleeding?"

She continued: “We’re called to question the systems which mean, despite living in one of the most affluent and developed countries in history, there are children who still go hungry, whilst others have a super-abundance of wealth. Inequality like this is an appalling indictment on our system and our society. Where is the justice in foodbanks?

“Every time you donate a tin, you should pick up a pen, write your MP or MSP and ask why you have just donated food to a foodbank in one of the richest countries in the world!”

The Church of Scotland is dedicated to removing the inequalities that blight so much of society, and the measure of any society is how it looks after its most vulnerable members, added Ms Foster-Fulton.

She concluded: “This is about what kind of Scotland we want to be. What kind of Scotland do we want for the one-in-five children living in poverty and for their parents who might be relying on foodbanks. As we fill up our trolleys and put presents under the tree and wait for Santa, what I want for Christmas is justice, a society where everyone has enough food to eat and a roof over their heads.”

* Sally Foster-Fulton's blog: http://cos.churchofscotland.org.uk/blogs/church_and_society/

* Thoughts on the foodbank debate, from the public gallery (Jack Monroe, originator of the foodbank petition): http://agirlcalledjack.com/2013/12/19/thoughts-on-the-foodbank-debate-fr...

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