Working families are being forced to turn to food banks to make ends meet, the Archbishop of Canterbury says ahead of the publication of a government report. But where is your nearest bank?
The Most Rev Justin Welby revealed how he was left more shocked by the plight of Britain’s hunger-stricken poor than by the suffering he witnessed in African refugee camps.
He told the Mail on Sunday that food is being wasted at “astonishing” levels across the UK but hunger “stalks large parts” of the country and that although less “serious”, the plight of a family who turned to a food bank in Britain had shocked him more than terrible suffering in Africa because it was so unexpected.
According to the Trussell Trust, new food banks are opening at the rate of two a week and numbers of people given three days’ emergency food by the trust rose from almost 350,000 in 2012/13 to over 900,000 the year after. More than a third of that number were children.
Mr Welby said that a large and growing number of churches were also responding to the crisis by setting up emergency food banks to help feed children who are hungry during the holidays.
The massive increase in the number of food banks across Britain in recent years has proved politically divisive.
Mr Welby called for a £150m state-backed food bank system and urged food companies to give excess food to charities: “Churches, charities and other organisations are crying out for foodstuffs that are usable to be diverted away from the dump or the incinerator.
We need to make it easier for food companies to give edible surplus food to charities. Most Reverend Justin Welby
“The big names in the food business know they have a moral obligation to the communities they work in.
“We need to make sure the financial incentives in their industry don’t act against their moral instincts. It’s clear that the food business doesn’t want to look the other way in the face of hunger and need.”
Business Minister Matthew Hancock claimed the increased use of food banks in Britain was because more people were aware of their existence.
He told Sky News’ Murnaghan programme: “Before we came to power, food banks were not allowed to advertise their existence.
One of the reasons (there is increased food bank use) is that more people know about them. Matthew Hancock
“But the key and essential question here is: how do you tackle these deep ingrained problems of poverty? And the single best way through that is undoubtedly work.”