Leaders of the Methodist Church, Baptist Union of Great Britain and United Reformed Church have responded with concern to the latest figures from the Trussell Trust, released today (16 April 2014)
"These figures should shock and anger us," said Methodist President the Rev Ruth Gee. "Hunger should not and need not be a problem in a rich country like the UK – and yet clearly it is. We thank God for foodbanks, which provide a vital lifeline to people who would otherwise be forced to go hungry.
"Wherever I have travelled in my year as president I have asked the same two questions: do you have a foodbank here and have you seen increased need for it?
"Wherever I have travelled the answers to both questions have been 'yes' and I am not hearing about small increases in need; I am hearing about huge leaps in demand and foodbanks that are struggling to keep up."
The Trussell Trust highlights static incomes, rising living costs, low pay, underemployment and problems with welfare, especially sanctioning, as significant drivers of the increased demand. Yesterday, the Department for Work and Pensions published research that shows that a third of families affected by the Benefit Cap have already had to cut spending on essential items such as food, while more than one in ten of these families have needed to borrow money to make ends meet – often from payday lenders.
"Over 900,000 people needing the help of a foodbank should lead the Government to examine why the post-Welfare Reform benefits system allows so many people to go hungry," added the Rev Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader for the Baptist Union of Great Britain. "Churches and others are doing sterling work reaching out to help folk in need but this isn't how it should be.
"It is a great a testimony that so many people have given up time and money to meet this need – it is a great tragedy that so many more families find themselves in such need.
"It is not credible to deny there are more people who are hungry – these figures should spur us on to address the important question of why there are more people hungry".
The Rev Gee has written a blog on her experiences travelling the country and talking to churches that run foodbanks.
Last year the Churches, together with the Church of Scotland, published a report highlighting the myths about poverty in the UK today. One of the most destructive myths – fuelled by "shirker and striver" rhetoric – is that people who live in poverty are lazy and work shy.
* More on End Hunger Fast from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/endhungerfast