Articles in the 'hunger' 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 ukfood povertyhungerCampaignfaith in actionLeedsAll HallowsSyrian Kitchenfood waste

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 ukCampaignfood wastehungerfaith in actionpoliticsGisela Stuart

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 ukCampaignhungerfood povertyfaith in actioni daniel blakefilm coop

Churches have key role to deal with UK’s food poverty, says SCM

Churches and other community organisations have a key role to play in finding sustainable ways to tackle the UK’s mounting food poverty, the Student Christian Movement (SCM) has said.

On 8 December, an all-parliamentary inquiry published its report into hunger and food poverty in Britain. The report calls on the food industry to reduce the amount of surplus food disposed of in landfills, after discovering that only 2% of edible surplus food is currently redistributed. UK supermarkets have responded by committing to expanding their partnerships with charities such as Foodcycle and Fareshare to see their surplus food reach those in need. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, whose Charitable Trust funded the inquiry, has said that the supermarkets have a 'moral obligation to their communities' to divert their surplus food from waste. 

"SCM welcomes the recent all-parliamentary report into hunger and food poverty in Britain,” said Stephen Atkinson, SCM’s Faith in Action ambassador for food waste. “But as Justin Welby reminded supermarkets of their obligation to divert surplus food from landfills, it is the church’s obligation to see that food reach those who really need it”.

“Encouraging supermarkets to donate their food is only half the battle. If we dare challenge the food industry to allow us to get our hands on their surplus food, we have to get ready to get our hands dirty. It has proved really difficult to construct sustainable, economically viable ways to channel that food to those most in need”.

“The supermarkets are going to increase their donations. What is simultaneously needed is a spark of social imagination, to see surplus food used to meet the needs of our neighbours. Let’s see more community lunches and neighbourhood cookery classes. This is a challenge to which the church must rise, and one at which I am sure it will thrive.”

Through a partnership with Project Bonhoeffer, SCM runs the Faith in Action programme, which this year is raising awareness of food waste and mental health among Christian student groups in Britain. As one of two ambassadors for the project, Mr Atkinson is delivering workshops to students, empowering them with skills and ideas to take to their communities.

Tags: food povertystudentsfood wastehungerfaith in action
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