Hundreds of churches are challenging the government on food poverty
Hundreds of churches have joined a campaign for "the right to food", as families in the UK, the seventh wealthiest country in the world, continue to go hungry.
Two million people in the UK are estimated to be malnourished, and three million are at risk of becoming so. Church Action on Poverty has therefore initiated a campaign for the right to food for all families in Britain.
The government is legally bound by international human rights law to secure enough food for every person living in the UK, but the Trussell Trust reports having fed more than one million people between 2014 and 2015 via food banks.
"We've seen a 19 per cent increase just in the last year," said Lynda Battarbee of the Trussell Trust. "We attribute that to a number of things, but in particular, benefit delays, benefit changes and low income."
Churches and charities have responded to the food crisis by opening food banks and offering food parcels to hundreds of thousands of people, Church Action on Poverty said. But "emergency food aid cannot be a long-term solution."
"A growing list of organisations have called for stronger and more coordinated action, not just to provide food aid, but to press national and local government to secure everybody's human right to adequate food."
Feeding a family is made more difficult during school holidays, as children who are usually eligible to receive free school meals go without.
This gap in the government's system is currently being met by churches and charities, but the campaign aims to show that the issue must be treated systematically at its root.
"Welfare reforms such as sanctions and benefit caps, and low wages, leave many people with little or no money for food. If people knew that they had a right to food, imagine what a difference it could make," said Martin, who has himself had to use a church-run food bank in Halifax to feed his family.
Church Action on Poverty has comissioned a video to highlight the issues, hoping to inject momentum into the campaign. It will be released on 7 February and is being screened at hundreds of churches across the country alongside special services exploring the theme of "Bread Broken for All".
Church Action on Poverty Director Niall Cooper said: "I've lost count of the number of conversations I've had with people in churches across the country to the effect of 'I've got involved in my local food bank because people are going hungry' – but in a wealthy country like ours I don't think people should need to be going to a foodbank."