7 December 2014
Last updated at 10:38
A new parliamentary report is expected to call for some food banks to be bigger
More help is needed to prevent families in the UK going hungry, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
Justin Welby says food is being wasted in “astonishing” amounts, but hunger “stalks large parts” of the country.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he backed a parliamentary report, to be released on Monday, which aims to end hunger in the UK by 2020.
The report is expected to call for a new publicly-funded body, known as Feeding Britain, to make this happen.
The archbishop said he was left more shocked by the plight of UK’s hunger-stricken poor people than by those suffering in African refugee camps, because it was so unexpected.
The government said it was “wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste” – but added that it must stick to its “long-term economic plan”.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said there was evidence that some of those using food banks were subject to benefit “sanctions” under which their payments were stopped for a period.
A new “traffic light system” mitigating the application of these penalties might help reduce the problem, he said..
The archbishop said the report makes recommendations that should be seized on by politicians and charities
The parliamentary report is expected to call for bigger food banks to distribute more free food and advise people on how to claim benefits, a rise in the minimum wage, and the provision of free school meals during school holidays for children from poor families.
Full details of the report have not yet emerged.
The archbishop said the report sought to “bring people together from churches, food banks, the food industry and government to make a real difference”.
The report is the work of an all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty, led by the Labour MP Frank Field and the Bishop of Truro, Tim Thornton.
Among the suggestions in his article, the archbishop said it should be made easier for retailers to pass on food they could no longer sell.
‘Ashamed to be hungry’
After describing scenes of a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he wrote: “… a few weeks later in England, I was talking to some people – a mum, dad and one child – in a food bank.
“They were ashamed to be there. The dad talked miserably. He said they had each been skipping a day’s meals once a week in order to have more for the child, but then they needed new tyres for the car so they could get to work at night, and just could not make ends meet.
“So they had to come to a food bank. They were treated with respect, love even, by the volunteers from local churches. But they were hungry, and ashamed to be hungry.
“I found their plight more shocking. It was less serious, but it was here.”
Nick Clegg spoke to the Andrew Marr Show earlier
Mr Clegg said there was “some evidence” that people subjected to benefit sanctions – where payment is stopped for infractions such as missing interviews or failing to take part in a work-related activity – have to use food banks temporarily.
“Whilst it is of course necessary to have sanctions in the benefit system, I think we should introduce a sort of traffic light system so that some of the sanctions are not imposed quite as ‘overnight’ as they sometimes are,” the Liberal Democrat leader said.
“That might help alleviate some of the problem.”
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw tweeted: “More superb leadership from our Archbishop condemning scandal of food poverty in today’s Britain call to action.”
‘Sticking to plan’
A government spokesman said UK people should not go hungry because “we have enough food to go around”.
“There is a moral argument as well as a sustainability one to ensure we make the best use of resources,” he said.
“While this report outlines important areas for consideration, we should remember that this country has been through the deepest recession in living memory, and sticking to this government’s long-term economic plan is the best way to improve living standards.”
Earlier this year 43 Christian leaders, including 27 Anglican bishops, signed a letter urging David Cameron to ensure people get enough to eat, saying “cutbacks and failures” in the benefits system were driving people to food banks.
Do you work for a food bank or have you made use of one? Do you agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury? You can share your experiences by emailing [email protected]. If you are willing to be contacted by a BBC journalist, please include a telephone number.
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