Government must work to resolve 'hunger crisis'

(AP Photo/M Spencer Green)

The Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, has said the Government must work to solve Britain's "hunger crisis".

Speaking in the South Wales Evening Post, Archbishop Morgan said: "It is incredible that in a prosperous country like ours, where we are told the economy is improving and house prices are rising, that nearly a million people feel the need to visit food banks to feed their families.

"Surely the mark of a civilised society is how it treats its poorest and most vulnerable people."

New figures from the food bank charity the Trussell Trust reveals that emergency food has been provided for more than 80,000 people in Wales in the last twelve months, more than double the number it provided for in 2012-2013.

In the UK as a whole, the Trussell Trust reports that 913,138 people received three days' worth of emergency food in 2013-2014, compared to 346,992 in 2012-2013, a 160 per cent rise.

The Trussell Trust has also had to increase the number of food banks it operates by 45 per cent.

Responding to criticism that the outspokenness of bishops on food banks is too political, the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron said on the BBC: "There have been attempts to portray the End Hunger Fast campaign in one form or another as 'loony lefties attack nasty right'.

"This is not political point scoring, it is addressing fundamental questions of well-being for our citizens."

Speaking to Christian Today, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies, offered his support for those 500 clergy who wrote to the government on this issue as part of the 'End Hunger Fast' campagin: "Feeding the hungry is a Christian duty and speaking out in the face of evident injustice is something which all Christians, not just their leaders, must do."

Bishop Davies criticised the way in which the benefits of the UK's economic recovery were not being evenly shared: "There seems to me to be a growing imbalance in the standard of living in the UK and statements from the government indicating that the economy is improving as well as statistics indicating that the rate of inflation is reducing.

"Yet these numbers ring pretty hollow in the eras of many in the most deprived communities of the country. Some may be feeling better, thousands are struggling and the government, which has a responsibility for all its citizens, appears either not to believe them or just chooses to ignore their needs."

A UK Government spokesperson was however critical of the Trussell Trust's figures, questioning whether their numbers took account of people who visited the food banks more than once.

They also noted that a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said that the percentage of the UK population that found it difficult to afford food had fallen from 9.8% in 2007 to 8.1% in 2012.

Speaking on the BBC, the spokesperson defended the Government's welfare provisions, saying: "We're spending £94bn a year on working age benefits so that the welfare system provides a safety net to millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs."

However, Trussell Trust statistics noted that 47.9 per cent of all those who approached food banks for help did so either because of delays in government benefit payments, or because they had lost benefits as part of the new welfare changes.

The trust's figures also call into question the provision for those on low incomes, as 20.29 per cent of those using food banks reported doing so because of being on a low income, despite being employed.