Bishop calls for serious debate about food banks

By Ian Dipple Friday 28 February 2014 Updated: 28/02 09:22

THE BISHOP of Worcester has called for a ‘grown up’ debate on the growing number of people seeking help from food banks across the county.

Right Rev Dr John Inge says he will be going without food throughout lent in support of the End Hunger Fast campaign.

Bishop John spoke out in support of a letter signed by 40 senior faith leaders from all Christian denominations, including 24 Church of England Bishops, which called on the Government to accept the fact over half of people using food banks were doing so because of cutbacks and failures in the benefits system and take action.

Redditch Food Bank was founded in September last year as churches and charities previously feeding those going hungry were unable to cope after demand soared by 297 per cent, following a raft of government welfare reforms which kicked in from last April.

In the first four months 422 adults and 145 children received 6.4 tons of food and it is expected current demand will continue meaning around 1,500 people will need the service over the next year. Of those who accessed the food bank, 96 people did so because of benefit changes, 136 because of benefit delays and 175 because of low income.

Bishop John told the Standard: “The experience of the Worcester and Black Country Food Banks reflects that of others - that there has been a very disturbing increase in hunger in our society over the past year. I am glad this has been highlighted. I hope food poverty, which is a real issue, will not become just another political football but there will be a grown-up debate which will enable us all to work together to eradicate it.”

Redditch MP Karen Lumley has been criticised by Standard readers for voting against a Labour motion during an opposition day debate which would have seen Parliament discuss the growing food bank crisis.

Mrs Lumley said: “Let’s be clear food banks were around before 2010, I accept they have increased since then, but they are not new. Opposition day debates are designed to embarrass governments of all political parties and I’m not interested in getting involved in that. What I am interested in is sitting down and having constructive conversations, which I do on a regular basis with Rev Robin Baker [who runs Redditch Food Bank], look at who they are helping and do the best I can to help.

“But the best thing the Government can do is what it is doing, getting people back to work by creating jobs in the economy so they don’t have to use a food bank and that’s what I’m focused on.”

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