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British families going without food is an ‘everyday reality’ says Middlesbrough bishop

Food bank items at Wandsworth foodbank at St Mary's Church, south London (PA)

Being with out food is an “everyday reality” for families in the UK, Bishop Terrence Drainey of Middlesbrough has said.

Responding to comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a Sunday newspaper he told the Catholic Herald: “In my diocese of Middlesbrough, being without food is an everyday reality for many families. Our parishes have been responding to the immediate need but food parcels can never provide a long-term solution.

“The work of this cross-party inquiry gives us great hope that, with a General Election just five months away, the main parties will step up and work together to tackle this chronic national crisis.”

Archbishop Justin Welby had previously said that he was more shocked by the plight of the poor in Britain than by the suffering he had witnessed in African refugee camps.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday Archbishop Welby said that the problems of British families having to turn to food banks was less serious than the suffering in Africa, but shocked him more because it was so unexpected.

Archbishop Welby said: “In one corner of a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo was a large marquee. Inside were children, all ill. They had been separated from family, friends, those who looked after them. Perhaps, mostly having disabilities, they had been abandoned in the panic of the militia attack that drove them from their homes. Now they were hungry.

“It was deeply shocking but, tragically, expected. A few weeks later in England, I was talking to some people – a mum, dad and one child – in a food bank. They were ashamed to be there. The dad talked miserably. He said they had each been skipping a day’s meals once a week in order to have more for the child, but then they needed new tyres for the car so they could get to work at night, and just could not make ends meet.

“So they had to come to a food bank. They were treated with respect, love even, by the volunteers from local churches. But they were hungry, and ashamed to be hungry. I found their plight more shocking. It was less serious, but it was here. And they weren’t careless with what they had, they were just up against it. It shocked me that being up against it at the wrong time brought them to this stage. There are many like them. But we can do something about it.”

A parliamentary report backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury on Monday set out a blueprint to eliminate hunger in Britain by 2020, urging ministers and the food industry to act.

Justin Welby, who will be president of the new Feeding Britain group, called for food that was currently being incinerated to be made available to those in need. He also called on prime minister David Cameron to reverse his decision not to accept £22 million from the European Union to provide more funding for food banks.