The response to those most badly affected by the tough economic times since 2008 has come predominantly from churchgoers, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Monday at the launch of the report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty.
Archbishop Justin Welby said the years since the economic crash had been hard ones for many people. “And the response of compassion, indiscriminate compassion, generous open-handed compassion, has come principally from the Churches in response to people’s need for food,” he told a Westminster gathering.
The archbishop reiterated the shock he wrote about in a Sunday newspaper that people in the UK were being forced into using food banks. “I’ve seen much worse, very recently, and will do over the next couple of weeks when I’m travelling, but it’s finding it here, it’s in the wrong place; we don’t do that in this country and we need to stop,” he said.
The all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger in the UK was set up to understand the extent and spread of hunger, and concluded that an income squeeze, benefit delays and excessive utility bills were behind a huge rise in the use of food banks. The inquiry was co-chaired by Labour MP Frank Field and the Anglican Bishop of Truro, Tim Thornton, and funded by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Charitable Trust. The number of food banks run by the Christian-run Trussell Trust has grown from a handful a decade ago to around 420 today.
Across the UK around four million people are at risk of going hungry, according to the report, and 500,000 children live in families that can’t afford to feed them. In addition, 3.5 million adults can’t afford to eat properly.