Niall Cooper: Unite with those in hunger
The Christian tradition of Lent has long been a time to fast, and, by doing so, draw closer to our neighbour and closer to God. This year, we will begin a time of fasting while half a million regularly go hungry in Britain. The End Hunger Fast (www.endhungerfast.co.uk) is an invitation to join with others, fasting in solidarity with the increasing numbers in communities across the UK who cannot afford to eat.
According to the latest research, over four million people in the UK do not have access to a healthy diet – including half a million children; people who are forced to live on an inadequate diet have a significantly increased risk of developing serious health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. They are also more likely to suffer from stress, ill health, poor educational attainment and shortened life expectancy.
The rising cost of living, combined with austerity cuts, is forcing poor families to choose whether to pay their bills or put food on the table. Foodbanks and charities are currently meeting the essential needs of many families and individuals in crisis, feeding adults and children who would otherwise have nothing to eat. Over 500,000 people were forced to turn to foodbanks to feed themselves last year. The likelihood is that this number will top 1.5 million people this year, as the impact of benefit cuts and austerity start to bite ever deeper into already stretched household budgets.
Niall Cooper is director of Church Action on Poverty and convener of the Inner Manchester Network of the United Reformed Church
This is an extract from the March 2014 edition of Reform.