Leominster Methodist Church held a Breakfast Conversation last Saturday where a group was established to support the End Hunger UK campaign, a national campaign sponsored by several charities including Child Poverty Action Group and Church Action on Poverty. Over a cooked breakfast the group made up of participants from local churches of various denominations, discussed the growing need for food banks in most of the towns and cities in the UK, why people in a developed society are going hungry and what the church can do to address this crisis. With members of the clergy and caring professions being increasingly approached by people facing food and fuel poverty, due in many cases to what they consider the failings of the benefits system, particularly payment delays, an inflexible and harsh sanctions policy and long adjudication procedures, participants felt that the time has come to do more than provide food through food banks.
Revd. Jon Chesworth who chaired the discussion said the event was “an opportunity to enjoy breakfast and talk about the serious issue of why people are going hungry, to listen to peoples’ stories and share experiences” adding that he felt that the system set up to help poorer members of society is “not compassionate enough”. Myths about false benefit claimants were dispelled in a presentation which revealed that this accounts for under 1 percent of claims and that zero hours contracts were largely to blame for the desperate situation many, who are in work yet turn to food banks, find themselves in.
The presentation included first-hand accounts from people living with long-term reliance on food banks, a segment on a Church Action on Poverty initiative that provides meals for children during school holidays, a screening of the trailer for the film I, Daniel Blake and a brief overview of the Truth and Lies Report published by the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT).*
Through the discussion which followed, the group identified a need for policy to deal specifically with poverty in rural areas. They decided to take practical steps including galvanising church members to lobby MPs, investigate where school holiday meals provision schemes can be established locally, develop fundraising initiatives and continue to meet as an ecumenical endeavour to support End Hunger UK.
Prior to the Breakfast Conversation, Circuit Steward Andrea Sheppick made two videos featuring Revd. Jon Chesworth and Frances Biseker addressing food poverty. These can be viewed here:
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