Hunger is becoming a widespread problem in Britain, said the Revd Christopher Harrison, vicar of St Mary’s, Nottingham. Speaking on April 3 at the last in a series of talks looking at hunger in the UK, he said steep rises in the costs of food, energy and water, stagnant wages and a punitive benefits system were combining to leave many people struggling. Having once worked for the Church as a world development advisor, he said he was used to dealing with poverty and hunger in other parts of the world, but some of those problems had now arrived on our shores. He said the volume of food consumed in the UK had fallen by seven per cent over five years. “With increasing levels of malnutrition and obesity caused by eating cheap food, children are not growing properly and there are growing levels of heart disease and diabetes,” he said. This led to lower educational attainment, a reduced life expectancy and a massive bill for the NHS.
The Revd Harrison, who has a degree in economics and spent five years working in HM Treasury, London, said Britain found it harder to make its way economically in the modern world and the gap between rich and poor had grown, causing resentment and mistrust in society. But there were things that could be done; between £30bn to £40bn in taxes is not paid, or not collected, every year, and the money being spent on building high speed rail lines could be used to create real jobs and to teach people new skills. Christians should respond to the needy with compassion, he said, but must not be blind to the causes of poverty and should campaign against injustice.
The talk was the last of four held at St Peter’s Church, Nottingham, in support of the End Hunger Fast campaign, which is urging the Government to act now on poverty and hunger in the UK. Campaigners are calling for a day of fasting today to show solidarity with those who cannot afford to eat and are dependent on handouts.