Articles in the 'Campaigns' category

Students and Locals Team Up to Fight Hunger in Leeds

On Thursday 16 February, students at SCM Leeds organised a ‘Big Conversation’, getting students and locals talking about food poverty, and discussing ideas to tackle hunger and food waste in the city. The event was part of the End Hunger UK campaign, an initiative involving SCM and partners including Church Action on Poverty, Oxfam and the Trussell Trust to combat UK food poverty.

Emma Temple, student outreach worker at Leeds University Chaplaincy, reports from the event:

“The Big Conversation we held in Leeds was a fantastic and inspiring day. We were based in All Hallows, an SCM link church, talking to people in their Junk Food Café. It was a perfect location for the event, an inner-city church with a community café already tackling hunger by reusing food that would otherwise have been thrown out by supermarkets and restaurants. Thursdays at the café are run by the local Syrian community, so there was a diverse mix of people there eating food inspired from all around the world, and feeding local people affordably.

We had some great conversations about hunger in the UK, mostly around food waste because of the project going on around us. But we also talked about a whole range of other issues, including climate change, capitalism, benefits cuts, zero hour contracts, and food prices. There were some great suggestions such as free school meals during school holidays, removing VAT on food, legislating to stop supermarkets wasting food, and introducing a real living wage. People were very keen to get involved in the discussion, and most people we spoke to had lots of thoughts on the subject, recognising that this was a real issue in our country.

We are now going to start planning for how we can take our ideas to our local MP Hilary Benn, and start a conversation with him about tackling food waste. We are hoping to invite him to our café so that he can see the amazing work that goes on there, and can discuss how the government can do more to tackle the huge problem that is food poverty in the UK.”

Tags: Big ConversationEnd Hunger UKCampaignsFaith in Action

Birmingham Christian Students Meet with Gisela Stuart MP to Discuss End Hunger Campaign

Students from the University of Birmingham’s Catholic and Methodist societies have met with Gisela Stuart, Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, to discuss the End Hunger UK campaign. They discussed the nature and causes of food poverty, the role of the political system, and the part played by ordinary citizens in bringing about change. The group also presented a collection of paper plates to Ms Stuart, with suggestions from members of the societies about how to tackle food poverty.

One of the key issues that emerged from the discussion was how citizens and politicians could work together. Parliament can bring attention to these issues, but only with “the individual cases that demonstrate the problem and give a chance for reform,” said Ms Stuart. “So if you come across these stories, that is really important.” At the same time, she said, public pressure and community action can make a huge difference: “School meals were changed after criticism from Jamie Oliver. Similarly, the churches still have a massive part to play, especially when they work together with other faith leaders.”

In recent weeks, the Birmingham societies have engaged actively in the End Hunger UK campaign, which aims to end food poverty in the UK by bringing ordinary citizens, local community groups, churches and politicians together. In January, members of the Birmingham Methodist and Catholic societies arranged a film night to watch I, Daniel Blake, the latest film by director Ken Loach, which depicts the life of someone struggling to make ends meet while navigating the complex world of the UK benefits system.

Bill Dallman, a student at the University of Birmingham and President of the Catholic Society said: “It was great to meet Gisela, and I liked how she challenged us to tackle the issues we raised head on. Yes, politics is about Parliament and legislation, but it’s also about people. We were encouraged to think about how we can deal with these problems in our own communities – here at university for example. We don't need to wait for some lengthy decision making process at Westminster for the End Hunger campaign to be a success. I'm excited to see where the campaign will take us next - working towards ending hunger and ultimately bringing the joy of Christ into the lives of those that we meet along the way.”

One of the issues to emerge during the discussion was food waste. The group discussed the possibility of creating a tax incentive that would make the redistribution of surplus food compulsory for large food retailers. The idea comes from a French law passed in 2016, which forces large supermarkets to pass on unsold food to charities and food banks. Ms Stuart is to raise the idea with the Treasury and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

“France’s measures to tackle food waste showed what can happen when campaigners and ordinary citizens work with the political system to create change,” said Ruth Wilde, SCM’s Faith in Action worker. “By starting this conversation now, we hope that political pressure, combined with grassroots campaigning, will mean Britain can also become a leader in the fight against hunger and food waste.”

In 2015, members of Birmingham Methodist Society established a food exchange programme, with the help of SCM’s Faith in Action intern Stephen Atkinson. The project collects surplus food from outlets on campus, redistributing it to a local homeless charity.

For Mark Birkett, a second-year student and member of Birmingham MethSoc, giving food to people who needed it was only a start. More needed to be done to fix long-term endemic problems: “Last year I went out with Birmingham Homeless Outreach to help with their distribution of food and clothing for the homeless. What struck me was that we weren’t necessarily very satisfied by giving people food. What can we really give people that can make a difference? Going back to the film I, Daniel Blake, it’s dignity, self-respect. I think that’s a big issue that needs to be linked to homelessness and hunger. We need to build these people up and give them a sense of meaning and respect.”

We ended the discussion with a challenge for the students to reach out to other societies on campus – faith-based or secular – and put pressure on the university to do more to tackle the issue of food waste.

Philippa Jefferies, President of the University of Birmingham’s Methodist Society, added: “Food waste in the UK is a huge problem and something MethSoc has aimed to help reduce, one example being through our current food exchange scheme. Our discussion with Gisela Stuart helped us to think bigger and on a more university scale. We can have a lot of power to get the government’s attention on this issue if we focus on uniting and including more people. Following on from the discussion we aim to get more groups within the university involved with what we do.”

Tags: End Hunger UKCampaignsFaith in ActionPolitics

Birmingham Christian Groups Unite For #EndHungerUK Campaign

Two Birmingham Christian groups have joined the #EndHungerUK campaign, engaging members in a discussion about food poverty after watching a screening of the film I, Daniel Blake on Thursday 12 February. Members of Birmingham Catholic Society and Birmingham Methodist Society joined with two other SCM members in the area to watch the film and discuss actions they could take on the issue of hunger in the UK. The event was hosted by the Just Film Co-op in Birmingham.

Discussions included a lively mix of topics, including the impact of zero hour contracts on economic security, the poor and unjust treatment of people within the benefits system (as demonstrated so powerfully in the film), and the idea of foodbanks being only a temporary solution to an endemic structural problem.

The group also touched upon potential longer term solutions, including a cooperative system of distributing food and alternative ways to strengthen poor communities through employment.

Ruth Wilde, SCM’s Faith in Action project worker, said, 'This film is fiction but it is based in fact. Half a million people used foodbanks in the UK in 2015 – a shocking number that should stir us into action. As Christians, we must respond to this challenge through perseverance and constant dialogue, and it was encouraging to see students engaging so passionately and thoughtfully with the issues.’

‘Foodbanks cannot be the safety net. The government needs to look at what's going wrong in the benefits system and admit that people are being sanctioned for the smallest infraction. Our government is putting lives at risk and enough people have already died because of the system. It needs to stop.'

In the next month, SCM plans to continue working with our student groups to get people thinking about the issue of UK food poverty, promoting further discussion. Follow us on Twitter (@SCM_Britain) or like us on Facebook for regular updates.

If you or your student group would like to host a ‘Big Conversation’ around the issue, or find out more about the campaign, visit our campaigns page here.

Tags: End Hunger UKCampaignsFaith in Action

Stories From Our Community: Autumn Term 2016 (Part Two)

Continuing with part two of our series, we have stories of a pilgrimage to Iona, a sleepout challenge to help the homeless, and students getting involved in church community and volunteering.

St John’s, Waterloo, London: A Sleepout Challenge

St John’s Waterloo is an inclusive church, believing that Jesus calls us to welcome everyone, and to work tirelessly for a safer and more just world.

"For the past 4 years, members of the congregation of St. John’s, Waterloo have been sleeping out for the ROBES Project, a charity local to Southwark that provides winter shelters for the homeless from around 20 churches in the diocese. On the night of 25 and 26 November, a team of six, including several students and myself, a student at KCL, went from St. John’s to Southwark Cathedral to spend the night on the cold, hard slabs of the Cathedral grounds. As a group, we raised £2,636.09 of the £81,000 raised for the ROBES Project this year. It was an immensely humbling experience. To us, the sleepout represents the radical commitment to social justice that our understanding of the Gospel entails. It is a prime example of the nature of life and of mission at St. John’s. 

As well as continuing our commitment to ROBES in 2017, St. John’s will be continuing our successful Bridge at Waterloo project, which aims to provide young people in our local area with employable skills by bridging between technical computer skills and the vast number of artistic ventures on the Southbank.”

Jack Allen, student member at St John’s Waterloo

Broughton St Mary's Church, Edinburgh: Faith and Foodbanks

Broughton St Mary’s Parish church is home to a faithful and creative worshipping community on the eastern edge of the city's New Town. It runs a Foodbank two days a week that is part of the Edinburgh North West Foodbank network, a project seeded by The Trussell Trust.

Any Foodbank relies on food donations, a volunteer staff team to administer the three days supply of emergency food, and a referral system. The Broughton St Mary’s Foodbank has support from churches in the parish and other faith communities. Annandale Mosque, the Baha’i Association and the Edinburgh Liberal Jewish Community have all supported the Foodbank with food and financial donations. It has also been supported by local schools – pupils have visited the Foodbank to see it in operation and have organised school collections – and businesses in the parish.

The volunteer staff team is drawn from people in the local community – people of faith and people of good will. Quakers, Roman Catholic, Brethren and Church of Scotland churches regularly provide volunteers. Some people have no faith motivation, but are drawn by the struggle to challenge injustice or to show solidarity by helping their neighbours.

Students are part of the volunteer staff team and two universities have also sent students to conduct research as part of their ongoing course work.

The foodbank belongs to a community wiser that the church community and it serves a diverse community of people. The openness to dialogue and “the other” has led us, as a church, to discover common ground with people of other faiths and no faith. Our interfaith vocation prods us to nurture wellbeing – love of God and love of neighbour – amongst people and organisations in the parish.

Revd Graham McGeoch

St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow: Pilgrimage to Iona

St Mary’s Cathedral is a busy, diverse congregation in the West End of Glasgow. It strives to provide a ministry which is affirming, inclusive, open and non-judgemental, as well as engagement in social issues and a high standard of liturgical worship.

In September, 25 members of the Cathedral congregation – including 4 SCM members – went on a pilgrimage to Iona (25-30 September 2016). The pilgrimage was launched at a live BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship in which SCM members participated and the pilgrims were blessed. Members also contributed to a number of elements in the pilgrimage.

To end the SCM weekend in Glasgow some members also took part in the Cathedral's monthly Open Silence session on 16 October 2016 introducing Christian Mindfulness and the Jesus Prayer. Rosaries made by SCM members were blessed during this session.

Revd Cedric Blakey

The Church at Carrs Lane, Birmingham: A Home for Students

The Church at Carrs Lane is a welcoming and inclusive community in the heart of Birmingham city centre. The church is traditional but open-spirited, with a passion for social justice.

We have been pleased to welcome students from different universities in the city and to share in pizza after the service together. We've also shared in good conversations, chats about the service, and life in general. Some students have become part of the community and we are very pleased to get to know them more and learn and worship together.

Students have helped make pizza for the rest of the church, shared in volunteering for events for vulnerable families, been involved in a worship consultation, and we are planning to have students share in leading a worship service early in 2017. At the students' request, we will be having an experiential bible study regularly after worship on Sundays in the new year.

Deacon Ruth Yorke

St James’ Church, Piccadilly, London:

In September the Circus Spirit, our monthly group for people in their 20s-30s, hosted a talk with Ben Ryan, a researcher from the think-tank Theos, to talk about his report on chaplaincy in the UK. In October we held an event on Islam and sexuality, where academic and researcher Shanon Shah guided us through Koranic interpretations of, in particular, homosexuality. In early December, rector Lindsay Meader held an end-of-year quiz about events in 2016. The first two were well-attended with between 15-20 people showing up. We had a smaller gathering at the Xmas meeting but it was still enjoyable.

Maddy Fry

Tags: ChurchesLink ChurchDeepening FaithCreating CommunityStudentsCampaigns

WSCF North America Calls for Solidarity in Wake of US Presidential Election

Student Christian Movements around the world must increase our efforts to challenge injustice, build global relationships, and strive for a better world, says the chair of the World Student Christian Federation North America committee.

Speaking after Donald Trump was elected US President on 9 November, Logan Boese called for increased solidarity among movements. “As we continue on into our next four years with uncertainty, I realize that our situation is not new in any regard. However, as a Christian-led organisation, how we respond to our situation defines us,” he said. “I ask that you all continue to walk with us in discernment, advocacy, and prayer. We do not know what the next four years will hold, but we will continue to strive for the same things that we have made our goals for years.”

After a campaign characterised by anger and hatred – much of it towards minorities and people on the margins – Donald Trump was elected to be US President on 9 November. In the face of such rising bitterness and division, our student Christian communities must come together to challenge this rhetoric and work together, said Logan.

“We cannot afford to go backwards on matters related to race, immigration, economics, and education. We need to learn from you all, seek your guidance, and continue to cultivate our global relationships in order to move forward.”

Continuing the Work

In the past few years, SCMs around the world have been at the forefront of movements tackling environmental issues and calling for fairer systems of politics and education that benefit disadvantaged groups. WSCF Latin America has developed conversations across the region on environmental rights. Members of SCM Hong Kong were part of wider peaceful demonstrations in 2015 calling for democratic rights. The Orthodox Youth Fellowship in Jordan is involved in outreach work to Arab Christians in Israel. The WSCF regional office in the Middle East is working with students and young people who are fleeing war and persecution. SCMs in Africa are providing a welcoming home for students and engaging passionately in theological discussion and biblical work.

This same spirit of mutual cooperation and a passionate yearning for justice must continue to define the work, even in the midst of disappointment and fear after the US elections: “These [stories of SCMs around the world] are just a few examples of the great work that our Federation has done across the world in the name of the downtrodden and disenfranchised.”

“While I cannot offer an explanation or fully comprehend myself the state of political affairs in the U.S. I do feel as though it is my duty to reach out to all of our global contacts in a request for solidarity and continued striving for a better world,” he added.

Click here to read the full statement from the chair of the WSCF North American committee.

Tags: WSCFCampaigns

SCM Joins End Hunger UK Campaign

SCM is joining the End Hunger UK campaign, a joint initiative led by a coalition of 12 leading UK charities including Church Action on Poverty, the Food Ethics Council and the Trussell Trust. The campaign was launched on World Food Day on 16 October, and aims to end food poverty in the UK once and for all.

A recent report from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said that as many as 8.4 million people in the UK struggle to put enough food on the table, equivalent to the entire population of London.

“Despite living in the seventh richest country in the world, there are now more than 8 million people at risk of going hungry every day. Parents are regularly skipping meals to feed their families; and 500,000 people are now dependent on food bank parcels to survive,” says Ruth Wilde, SCM’s Faith in Action Project Worker. “For such a rich country, this is a scandal that needs to be addressed. By joining the End Hunger UK campaign, students across Britain will be adding to the conversations that will put pressure on our leaders to respond and end this scandal once and for all.”

Big Conversations

The campaign will begin with a series of ‘Big Conversations’, which will be held on social media using #EndHungerUK, and at local charity and community group events across Britain. The Big Conversations will take place until March 2017. Participants will be asking, ‘What one thing can the government do to end hunger in the UK?’ Resources can be downloaded on

SCM is inviting students to join the conversation by writing their answers to this question on a paper plate, taking a photo of it and tweeting the picture using #EndHungerUK. We are also inviting student groups and link churches to host a Big Conversation event, which can be done in partnership with a local foodbank. For further ideas on how to get involved, visit our campaign resource page here.

“SCM is encouraging the movement – students, groups, link churches and supporters – to get involved in this campaign in any way they can. Together, we can create a cry for justice that cannot be ignored any longer, and create a hunger-free society in the UK,” added Ruth Wilde.

Go to SCM’s resource hub for the End Hunger UK campaign for ideas on how to get involved:

Go to the End Hunger UK campaign website for more details about the campaign, and to download resources such as posters and a social media toolkit:

Tags: Faith in ActionCampaignsEnd Hunger UKBig Conversation


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