Anglican leader spotlights plight of hungry in Britain
LONDON — The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he found seeing the hungry in Britain to be less serious but more shocking than the plight of those starving in some places in Africa.
Justin Welby, head of the 80-million strong Anglican communion, compared his two recent experiences of seeing hungry people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to talking to a family making a collection of free food in England.
He said, although less “serious”, the plight of a family who turned to a food bank in Britain had shocked him more than terrible suffering in Africa because it was so unexpected.
“In one corner of a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo was a large marquee. Inside were children, all ill. They had been separated from family, friends, those who looked after them,” Archbishop Welby wrote in the Mail on Sunday.
“Perhaps, mostly having disabilities, they had been abandoned in the panic of the militia attack that drove them from their homes. Now they were hungry.
“It was deeply shocking but, tragically, expected. A few weeks later in England, I was talking to some people — a mum, dad and one child — in a food bank.
“They were ashamed to be there. The dad talked miserably. He said they had each been skipping a day’s meals once a week in order to have more for the child, but then they needed new tyres for the car so they could get to work at night, and just could not make ends meet.
“So they had to come to a food bank. They were treated with respect, love even, by the volunteers from local churches. But they were hungry, and ashamed to be hungry.
“I found their plight more shocking. It was less serious, but it was here. And they weren’t careless with what they had — they were just up against it. It shocked me that being up against it at the wrong time brought them to this stage. There are many like them. But we can do something about it.”
“The scale of waste in this country is astonishing. As a nation we discard about 15 million tonnes of food a year, at least four million thrown out by households,” he said.
A cross-party parliamentary inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty published on Monday highlighted the growing reliance by needy Britons on food banks, which provide the needy with free emergency supplies.
The Hunger and Food Poverty inquiry found that the number of people in Britain provided with emergency food assistance by one charity, the Trussell Trust, rose to 913,138 in 2013-14, up seven-fold from 2011-12.
Administrative delays in paying state benefits was the reason many people visited food banks, the inquiry found. It recommended that the government reform the system to deliver payments more quickly.
Archbishop Welby and other religious leaders have in the past criticised Britain’s current government for the cuts it has made to the welfare payouts, part of its effort to reduce a large budget deficit.
Religious leaders say they have forced rising numbers of people to use free food banks, skip meals and turn off heating to save money. Britain’s $2.8 trillion (M30.4 trillion) economy is forecast to grow faster than any other Group of Seven economy country this year. The economy is forecast to grow three percent in 2014 and 2.4 percent forecast for 2015. — Reuters.