The End Hunger Fast campaign
asks the Government to take action on welfare, wages and food markets, factors it says have contributed to the rise of people going hungry and having to use foodbanks.
Fasting is a key part of the campaign, which is spearheaded by a number of Christian organisations, both to raise awareness of the issues and stand in solidarity with the thousands of people who are going hungry.
The public is invited to join a nationwide fast on 4 April, while a collection of Christian leaders, MPs, celebrities and anti-poverty activists are taking part in a 40-day fasting relay throughout Lent.
The relay began on Ash Wednesday, and those taking part include the Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
She hopes the End Hunger Fast campaign will enable the voices of the marginalised to be heard.
‘Fasting is a spiritual discipline that draws us closer to God,’ she said, ‘and the closer we come to God the more we share His heart for all who are poor.
‘In all the changes to the welfare system the needs of real people need to be upheld. My prayer is that the End Hunger Fast campaign will give a voice to all those who will struggle to put food on the table today, and help lead to real and lasting change that prevents such hunger struggles in the future.’
Mrs Green (pictured) will be taking part in the fasting chain on 28 March. Those involved in the first week include comedian Eddie Izzard, Helen Drewery, General Secretary of the Quakers, Rt Rev Michael Perham, the Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Rev Nick Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Rev Stephen Platten, the Bishop of Wakefield, and Sarah Teather MP.
Helen Drewery said, ‘Quakers are angry that such hunger and inequality exists in Britain. So I’ll be taking part in the fasting chain because I want to stand in solidarity with people who have no choice but to go hungry and because I think that the Government needs to take the issue of hunger more seriously.’
Stepping up the pressure on Ash Wednesday was a letter from 20 leading secular charities, which was published in national newspapers and announced “Hunger has returned to Britain”.
The letter, signed by the likes of Oxfam, Just Fair and Child Poverty Action Group, followed an earlier letter from faith leaders.
In addition fresh statistics from the Trussell Trust showed their foodbanks gave out three days’ emergency food over 600,000 times between April and December 2013, more than in the entire previous financial year, while a new poll shows strength of public backing. 70 per cent say the Government should act immediately to stop people going hungry in Britain while 71 per cent agree that rise of numbers needing food banks is a “national disgrace”.
Elsewhere, church leaders in West Yorkshire united to express their concern at policies which cause hunger on Ash Wednesday. In a statement the ecumenical group, which included the Revd Mary Taylor, Regional Minister with the Yorkshire Baptist Association, spoke of their concern at 'policies deliberately designed to make people hungry'.
The previous day the leaders had encouraged a day of celebration and support for the 'generosity of thousands of Christians and others who run foodbanks, serve drop-in meals, donate food, money and time to feeding the people society has left behind'.