01 January 2018, The Tablet

Archbishop of Canterbury uses New Year Message to focus on food poverty

Archbishop Justin Welby focusses on the sufferings of those forced to rely on food banks

Archbishop of Canterbury uses New Year Message to focus on food poverty

The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his New Year Day message to focus on food poverty, referring to the struggles of those trying to find work or "relying on food banks".

He also highlighted the heroism and compassion of communities and emergency workers caught up in the "terrible tragedies" of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster and the London and Manchester terror attacks of 2017. "All over the world, we witnessed the horror and devastation caused by terrorism," he said.

Delivering his message in a BBC broadcast from the London Ambulance Service special operations centre, where staff dealt with calls from the attacks, Archbishop Justin Welby said: "When things feel unrelentingly difficult, there are often questions which hang in the air: Is there any light at all? Does anyone care?"

He quoted St John's Gospel: "The light shone in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."

The light is manifest in the resilient recovery of Borough Market in London as it recovers from the attack in June in which eight died and 48 were injured. The light was also in the faces of those many volunteers who helped out at Grenfell, which he visited on the day of the fire itself and from which he recalled the desperation and sorrow of survivors.

"So often in 2017, the depth of suffering was matched by a depth of compassion as communities came together," he said.

Volunteers turned out simply to help strangers in need. “We see it in the heroism of the ambulance crews, police, fire service and security forces. I will never forget the image of a group of unarmed police officers sprinting flat-out towards Borough Market, as so many people were running in the opposite direction.” A choice could be made over how to be defined by these disasters: “The horror? Or the response? The darkness, or the light?”

The Archbishop also referred to the struggles of those who are bereaved, coping with poor mental health or suffering from physical illness – the real problems but the kinds of problems that never make headlines.

Earlier, the Archbishop of York, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme, also spoke of his concerns about food poverty.

Dr John Sentamu addressed a recent report on poverty from the Joseph Rowntree foundation that warned that progress was in danger of being reversed.

"We've been trying our best in relationship to food banks and trying to help those who are poorest," he said. "This is a national scandal," he added, criticising politicians that remain reluctant to accept that these issues can only be tackled by raising taxes.

Last month the Trussell Trust warned: As we approach Christmas, and with further roll-out of universal credit – with its in-built delay of over a month at the start of a claim – on the horizon, it is a sad reality that we can expect thousands of people up and down the country to be forced to rely on the kindness of strangers simply to eat. Our update to the original report, published today, is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be like this.

The trust's 2017 update to its 2014 report on food bank use, Emergency Use Only, states that the number of three-day emergency food supplies provided to people in crisis by Trussell Trust food banks has continued to rise, although increases have been less dramatic since 2014. ssessments for the chronically ill. 3 We would recommend a wider review as part of this strategy to take into consideration more of the recommendations in this document.

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