Christmas dinner on Jesus

Published 25 December 2013  |  
(Photo: Facebook/Urban Outreach)
One of the hampers ready for delivery

For the third year in a row, a Christian charity in Bolton is running a Christmas food campaign to help those who don't have enough money to feed their families during the celebrations.

Staff and volunteers at Urban Outreach are motivated by the call of Isaiah 58 which tells believers to "bind up the broken-hearted and set the captives free".

They use this Biblical challenge to help the disadvantaged, poor and vulnerable in their communities by providing practical support.

"Our purpose is to meet the needs of the whole person, in partnership with local churches, the voluntary and statutory sectors, businesses and individuals," says the charity.

One of their biggest aims is to help those experiencing financial hardship by providing food parcels. Urban Outreach runs the 'Storehouse', a food bank and distribution project that delivers emergency food to individuals and families in need while also working alongside agencies to ensure the root causes of hardship are addressed.

At Christmas, they run an initiative called "Christmas dinner on Jesus", where struggling families receive a hamper containing everything needed to create a traditional Christmas dinner. These hampers include not only enough food to cook a generous meal, but also festive details such as crackers and party hats.

The charity is set to help many different families during the festive season this year, meeting practical need with the hope and love of Jesus.

Food poverty in the UK is a growing problem across the country. Just recently, Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, attacked the "new and terrible" increase in food poverty and malnutrition in Britain at the Church of England's General Synod.

"We are an advanced economy, a first-world country, and we have been one for longer than most. But we suffer from a blight – increasing poverty in a land of plenty," he said in an impassioned plea that called for the Government to change welfare reforms reducing benefits for those most in need.

Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam worked together to publish a report entitled "Walking the Breadline: the scandal of food poverty in 21st century Britain" in May of this year.

The document labelled the fact that many people don't have enough to eat in the UK a "disgrace", and said that it "undermines the UK's commitment to ensuring that all its citizens have access to food – one of the most basic of all human rights".

The report estimates that over 50,000 people were reliant on food banks at the time of publishing, a number that has now increased exponentially. The Trussell Trust, which runs 400 food banks across the UK, has reported feeding 346,992 people nationwide in 2012-13. Of those helped, 126,889 were children.

The trust says 13 million people are currently living below the poverty line in the UK, and rising living costs and stagnant wages are forcing more and more people to live on a "financial knife edge".

The Church is calling for an end to this trend. Bishop John Arnold, a Catholic Bishop and trustee of Caritas Social Action Network, has described poverty as "insidious", and has argued that the success and civilisation of a society should be measured by the care given to the most vulnerable and in need.

Archbishop Sentamu stressed in his Synod address that the work of Christians is vital in the abolition of poverty, and said the Church of England is compelled to speak up for the poor.

Charities such as Urban Outreach are responding to this call in their desire to be a source of provision for struggling families. It recently also won a £50,000 grant to help set up 'Friends of Fun Food' which is an initiative to hold events and activities that aim to restore a love and excitement for food, while connecting people to healthy, quick and affordable eating.

Chief executive, Dave Bagley, said: "We want to get different generations working together to rediscover the passion of food, using great, fresh produce, making tasty meals on a budget."

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