Food poverty sign of a 'broken society' - Archbishop

(l-r) Archbishop Barry Morgan, Susan Lloyd Selby, Fr Ben Andrews and Jane Hutt at St Mary's Church.

The Archbishop of Wales has spoken of his sadness at the plight of families having to turn to foodbanks in desperation.

Dr Barry Morgan was opening a food bank in St Mary's church in Barry on Thursday. It is the second emergency food distribution centre in the town and the fourth in the county run by the Vale Foodbank.

People will be able to collect food parcels every Friday afternoon as well as find a listening ear over a cup of tea, and be able to receive advice.

The foodbank has been opened in response to rising demand and will be manned by volunteers from the parish and the community.

The Archbishop said he was pleased to see that there are "still people who care enough about others to do something practical".

"And I am very proud of the fact that the church has been in the vanguard of helping people who are down on their luck - because if the church of God doesn't care for their neighbours then heaven help us," he said.

"Unless there is health and happiness for everyone there isn't health and happiness for anyone because we are all part of one society."

However, he expressed sadness over the need for foodbanks and questioned why Britain had become a place where people are "so desperate that they have nowhere else to turn to".

"This country is, in comparative terms, a very rich country and here are people who are so desperate as to come to a food bank," he said.

"Those of us who can afford food can't begin to imagine what it must be like for people who are at their wits' end because they don't know where their next meal is coming from or how they are going to pay their bills.

"That's a reflection on all of us, on Britain as a society - we are a broken society in some ways. So alongside my pride and gladness is this terrible sadness about what is happening in our society."

Vale Foodbank has now given emergency food to 6,000 local people in crisis but its coordinator, Susan Lloyd-Seby, said the numbers are continuing to rise.

Those being referred include young people who cannot find employment and people on low incomes who have been hit by the bedroom tax.

"We regularly see people queuing to get into the food distribution centre in Barry and our volunteers hear some heart-breaking stories," she said.

"Last week we supported a young pregnant mum who had been forced to give up work due to health problems and because of delays in her benefit payments she had no money to buy food.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for people to access emergency food support and are very grateful to Father Ben Andrews for his support in enabling us to open a new centre in St Mary's Church, Holton Road, Barry."

Fr Ben said: "Barry is a very mixed community and there is sadly an increasing need for the Foodbank's work. St. Mary's is centrally located in the heart of Barry town and the centre at St. Mary's is expected to be busy. We are delighted in the parish to be able to offer the church as a distribution centre, to be able offer practical Christian help, and to make a positive difference to people who are in need."

St Mary's distribution centre will be open on Friday afternoons from 2-3pm.

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