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Easter vigil for UK poor

Charity says demand for food banks has more than doubled in the last year

Mark Gould

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Religious leaders and anti-poverty campaigners will gather in Westminster today to draw attention to the growing number of families in the UK that rely on charity food banks because they cannot afford to buy food.

The Trussell Trust, the charity which is the UK's leading provider of food banks, today revealed that it has handed out 913,000 food parcels in the last year, up from 347,000 the year before. The Trust said a third were given to repeat visitors but that there was a "shocking" 51% rise in clients to established food banks.

It gave emergency food to 346,992 people nationwide in 2012-13, including 126,889 children. Rising food and fuel prices combined with static incomes mean more people are hitting a crisis where they can’t afford food, the Trust said. But it also says benefits payments had been a particular problem since welfare changes were introduced just over a year ago. Some 83% of its food banks reported that benefits sanctions - when payments are temporarily stopped - had resulted in more people being referred for emergency food.

The Trust has organised the rally in Old Palace Yard, Westminster, this evening to draw the attention of policy-makers to the fact that too many people are growing hungry in the UK and as a call for donations to help.

"We need your help to stop people going hungry in the UK which is why we are asking you and your friends and family to donate the cost of an Easter egg. Holy Week offers the chance to come together and offer our voices and prayers in support for government action on hunger," it says.

The Trust says the event will include speeches from faith leaders and anti-poverty campaigners working to end the crisis in UK, and "an opportunity to pray and break bread together".

Meanwhile more than 40 bishops and over 600 non-conformist leaders and clergy from across all the major Christian denominations in Britain have co-signed a new letter calling for urgent Government action on food poverty. The letter, in support of the End Hunger Fast campaign, marks the biggest ever Christian intervention on UK food poverty in modern times and comes as other faith groups join the campaign.

Letter signatories include the Archbishop of Wales and leaders from every major Christian denomination in the UK; Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical Alliance, Methodist, Baptist and United Reform Church. The letter calls the situation “shocking” and asks the Government to “commit fully to the independent inquiry on the rise of UK hunger”.

Three church leaders who are fasting for the 40 days of Lent deliver a letter to the constituency offices of Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

The government said there was no evidence of a link between welfare reforms and the use of food banks.

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