Churches across UK to break bread for food justice this Sunday
Churches of all traditions across the UK will break bread, celebrate God's gift of food, and lend their support to a major new campaign for 'food justice' in the UK this Sunday (7 February).
Church Action on Poverty Sunday is an opportunity to raise awareness of the continuing injustice of poverty in one of the world's richest countries.
This year, chuches are organising collections and fundraising soup lunches to support Church Action on Poverty as it plays a leading role in the launch of a new campaign to end hunger in the UK.
Two million people in the UK are estimated to be malnourished, and three million at risk of becoming so. Churches across the country have opened food banks and handed out food parcels to literally hundreds of thousands of people - 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.
In their services, many churches will be screening Church Action on Poverty's special mini-documentary video.
It highlights the UK Government's duty under international human rights law to secure the human right to food for everyone in the UK - and the evidence that it is failing in that duty because of welfare reforms, benefit cuts and sanctions, and instead leaving it up to churches and charities to fill the gap.
According to Martin, one of the narrators of the video, who has himself had to use a church-run food bank in Halifax to feed his family: '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.'
Lynda Battarbee of the Trussell Trust says in the video: 'We've seen a 19 per cent increase just in the last year and we've fed more than a million people between 2014 and 2015. We attribute that to a number of things, but in particular, benefit delays, benefit changes and low income.'
One of the issues highlighted in the video is that of holiday hunger: children who are eligible for free school meals during term time, going without food during the long holiday periods. Angela Ashton, volunteer coordinator of a church-run holiday meals project in Halifax, said: 'Several people from the church had a concern for the wellbeing of children during the summer holidays, and we wanted to make sure we were doing something to help support them through a time that had a potential for being difficult for some families of young children who had been receiving a free school meals at school.'
A range of resources are available for the day - including specially written prayers on the theme of 'God the Baker of Bread' by the Dalit liberation theologian Raj Bharath Patta, and reflections and preaching notes by food justice expert Tony Phelan.
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.'
'We invite anyone who feels this way to join us on 7 February, and break bread for all. Pray, give, and sign up to the campaign to end hunger in the UK."
Churches interested in taking part can download a resource pack for Church Action on Poverty Sunday at www.church-poverty.org.uk/sunday