Friday, 4 April 2014

Why Hunger Has Put Me Off My Lunch

So today I'm not eating any lunch.  I didn't have any elevenses either, although I did have breakfast, and I'm not planning to eat again until 6 or 7 o'clock.

Today's lunch #EndHungerFast

I didn't think I'd get much done this morning if I didn't have any breakfast, but some people don't have that choice. Some people in Britain, probably thousands of them, didn't have anything in their cupboards for breakfast, lunch or dinner this week and for some of them that was all week.  Some people haven't eaten for weeks.

Earlier this year the Oxford Mail reported on the death of a 'vulnerable and fragile' man who starved to death, four months after most of his benefits were stopped. You can read more here.

Isn't it enough to put you off your lunch? It is me. Around three thousand people will be volunteering to go without their lunch and many of them are not eating at all today because they want to see an end to people having to go hungry in Britain. It's all about End Hunger Fast.

10 million people live in poverty in the UK and 3.5 million of them are children. Most of the households in poverty have one or more people in work, but if their total income is under £17,000 they are likely to have to cut back on things like food to make ends meet.

Six hundred thousand people needed to use food banks in the last six months even in many places we think of as wealthy parts of the country. 30% of people using food banks say they needed food because their benefits had been delayed.

Benefits being stopped due to sanctions, or delayed, is another reason why so many people are going hungry. People get their benefits stopped when they fail to turn up for appointments with Benefits Advisers and it doesn't seem to matter if they are prone to serious bouts of depression, have started training for work or lead chaotic lives for some reason or other.  Their mental health and home circumstances don't seem to be taken into consideration and in some cases, the fact that they've just started on a training course that can help them back into employment isn't, either.

Half a million people have been put on benefit sanctions in the last six months.

Another reason why people are going hungry is because they are on a low income or a pension and once they've paid the gas and electricity bill they have very little to live on. With rising fuel prices people living in badly insulated homes will be paying an increasing proportion of their budget on fuel, so if they are in a low-paid job or have a low-income for any other reason, they will be struggling to feed themselves and possibly even their families, although parents usually go hungry before letting their children go without.

One in five mothers have said that they've had to skip a meal in order to feed their children.

Food prices have risen by 30% in the last five years but wages have mostly stayed the same or even fallen and benefits have been capped.

The dramatic rise in the use of food banks over the last few years, makes it clear that Britain's welfare system isn't working properly.  The fact that many people who use food banks are working also shows that for many wages are not high enough.

Keith Hebden feels so strongly about this that he decided to stop eating for a full forty days. I think he can start eating again on Psalm Sunday.  Here he is telling us what it is like to eat no food for 29 days:

Rev.s Keith Hebden and Matthew Neville got together with support from Church Action on Poverty, the Trussell Trust, Quakers and Just Fair to call for a National Day of Fasting today, the 4th April, to highlight this situation.
We all think it's time that the government did more to help the most vulnerable people in our society and we want to End Hunger Fast.

The point of today's National Day of Fasting is to call on the government to ensure:
  • That the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger in Britain
  • That work pays enough for working people to properly provide for their families 
  • That food markets function, promoting long term sustainable and healthy diets with no one profiteering off hunger in Britain 
So I'm going to have to wait until dinner time before I have my next meal, and there are a lot of people who won't be able to do that in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.  There are a lot of people in 21st century Britain who don't know where there next meal is coming from or when it will happen.

Thinking about this on Thursday I was inspired to write a 'Psalm of Lament for Those Who Go Hungry'

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