Churches support growing numbers of families facing hunger and isolation

By agency reporter
July 21, 2019

Churches will provide thousands of meals and holiday play opportunities to support families in need this summer.

There is growing evidence that Universal Credit is driving further increases in holiday hunger. Particular problems are the five week wait and the two child limit. Submissions from the Trussell Trust to a Parliamentary Select Committee enquiry into holiday hunger show demand for foodbanks and holiday clubs increases significantly during school holidays. 

Paul Morrison, Policy Adviser for the Joint Public Issues Team, said: “Holidays should be a time for families to relax and enjoy time together. But for the families of over 1 million children, the long summer holidays means a struggle to afford the basics and increased isolation. 

“I regularly meet parents for whom the long school holidays means they must skip meals in order to ensure their children have enough. It is simply not right that this can happen in today’s UK. 

“Many churches in areas of need are doing what they can to help families who are locked in poverty”.

Darlington Methodist Circuit run a Make Lunch project in Northland during school holidays for two or three days per week which includes a hot healthy lunch. Now in its fourth year, the project has seen increased numbers attending. Morvyn Sanderson, Children and Young People’s Worker, said: “We support up to 120 children and their families, from newborn babies to grandmas, who are struggling with isolation and financial problems over the holidays.

“We are making a difference to children who would miss meals, to parents who might not get food as they need to prioritise the kids and to families who need to make difficult financial decisions in the holidays as they don't get that free meal from school and have to occupy everyone too.

“The club is a way for us as a church in the town to show we care, that we are more than just Sundays, that we are committed to making a difference to people and that we will be a consistent and welcoming place for anyone who needs us.”

Churches support struggling families in other ways including through the operation of foodbanks and services such as debt counselling in association with Christians Against Poverty.

The Methodist South London Mission is a partner and distribution centre for the Southwark Foodbank which has fed over 5, 000 people since 2017. Home to the Mission is also Mummies Republic, a community group of women and their primary aged children. The group meets after school, offering quiet time for the mothers, a meal and activities for their children and the opportunity to receive advice. For new mothers, the group works with health visitors to alleviate postnatal depression and other cases of mental health caused by traumatic experiences.

Importantly Mama’s Republic also offers a space where mums can find their voice. In the past year they worked with a theatre company to tell their stories in a play called “the Vortex”. The play premiered to a packed room of MPs, Lords and their staff in the House of Commons in April.

* The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) is made up of the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, working together for peace and justice. http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/

* The Methodist Church https://www.methodist.org.uk/

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