Church calls for action on national food poverty 'crisis'
Number of people receiving food parcels almost tripled last year, but ministers deny benefits cut link
CHURCH leaders have called on politicians from all parties to tackle a "national crisis" of rising hunger in the UK after the number of people receiving food parcels almost tripled last year.
More than 40 Anglican bishops and 600 church leaders have signed a letter that calls for action to tackle the causes of food poverty, including low wages, rising food prices and an inadequate welfare benefit safety net.
The letter urges David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to support the findings of a newly created all-party parliamentary inquiry into the causes of food poverty and urged society to "begin rising to the challenge of this national crisis".
Data released by the Trussell Trust, the UK's biggest food bank network, reveals that more than 900,000 people, including more than 330,000 children, received food parcels in 2013-14, a 163 per cent increase from the previous year.
The trust says its figures represent "just the tip of the iceberg" of food poverty, as they do not include the thousands of other people helped by non-Trussell food banks, as well as people who have no access to help or who are too ashamed to turn to charity food. More than half of its food parcels are going to people facing welfare cuts or delays in benefit payments, it says.
However, ministers have repeatedly denied any link between cuts to benefits and the "explosion" in food bank use, says The Guardian.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson claims the Trussell figures are potentially misleading because it is unclear whether they have double-counted people who have made repeat visits to food banks.
"We're spending £94bn a year on working-age benefits so that the welfare system provides a safety net to millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs," says the DWP.
"The truth is that the employment rate is the highest it's been for five years and our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty."