The Scandal of Food Poverty
In John’s Gospel, Jesus asks Peter three times ‘Do you love me?’ and then says ‘Feed my sheep’ (John 21:16-17). The number three is important in the Bible – the cock crows three times when Peter disowns Jesus; Jesus rises on the third day; and so on. When the number three is used, we need to sit up and listen. Jesus’ command here is not just for Peter; it’s for all of his disciples, including us. If we love Jesus, we must feed his sheep- both spiritually and physically.
Poverty has been on the rise in the UK in recent years. Despite living in the seventh richest country in the world, there are now two million people estimated to be malnourished in this country, with a further three million in danger of becoming so; parents are regularly skipping meals to feed their families; and 500,000 people are now dependant on food bank parcels to survive.
It is a cliché to say it, but the number of people living in poverty, unable to feed themselves properly, is a scandal in such a rich country, and one which could be avoided with the right policies from our government. It is also illegal, because in 1976, the UK government made ‘a binding commitment under international human rights law to secure the human right to adequate food for everyone’. This is why Church Action on Poverty has partnered with Oxfam, FareShare, the Trussell Trust and many others to campaign for an end to hunger in the UK.
The Big Conversation
SCM will be supporting the End Hunger UK campaign over the next two years. We will be encouraging students, link churches and supporters to get involved in any way they can. The main objective of the campaign from now until March is to conduct a ‘Big Conversation’ across the country. Groups and churches will be able to join in with Big Conversations already happening in their area or organise their own, perhaps in conjunction with a local foodbank. The conversations can take the form of a coffee morning, a forum or a simple chat. The question at all of these events will be: ‘What does our government need to do to end hunger in the UK?’ All people who attend Big Conversations will be asked to write their answer to that question on a paper plate, take a photo of it and tweet it using the hashtag #EndHungerUK
Don’t worry if you don’t make it to a conversation, or can’t organise one. You can still join the campaign by writing your answer on a paper plate and tweeting it. I would encourage you all to do this and post an image of your tweet to the SCM Facebook group. In this way, we can all encourage one another to join the campaign, as well as sparking our own conversation in the Facebook group based on what we all write on our plates! When you have tweeted and shared your views on a plate, gather as many plates as you can from people in your group or church and post them to your MP with a letter asking them to take action. See here for more information.
Engage and campaign!
As part of the campaign, I would encourage you all to go and watch ‘I, Daniel Blake’, which is out now in cinemas around the UK. It’s a hard-hitting film about hunger, food banks and the benefits system in the UK. It’s by Ken Loach, who has directed many excellent films, and it won the Palme D’Or this year at the Cannes film festival. Go as a group, with a friend or on your own! You could follow it with a Big Conversation in your SCM group or church.
Church Action on Poverty have created resources to use in the campaign. Just follow this link to download everything you need. They are also busy organising their next conference, which is called ‘Church of the Poor?’ and is about going beyond charity to solidarity. It’s taking place at Cross Street Chapel in Manchester on the 19th November. Book your place here.
Keep an eye out throughout the year for updates on the campaign and more ways to get involved. Good luck!