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Religious leaders back petition on food poverty as new data shows sharp rise in handouts

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: April 16, 2014

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A CAMPAIGN to eradicate food poverty in East Staffordshire has received the backing of 1,000 signatories – including community and religious groups.

Burton’s Salvation Army and YMCA, St Mary’s Church in Stretton and Burton’s Trent and Dove Methodist Circuit have endorsed the End Hunger Fast initiative.

The revelation came as furious campaigners urged Prime Minister David Cameron to halt welfare reforms after a million food parcels were given to starving UK families in the last year.

Superintendent Minister of the Trent and Dove Circuit, Reverend Mike Redshaw, told the Mail he signed the petition to raise awareness of inequality in Burton.

He said: “We are seeing inequality due to dependence on food banks.

“We have a Government that’s prepared to see those who need help go and hunt for help, but that help is not being provided.

“There are an awful lot of people who are dependent on food banks to have a standard of living that many take for granted.”

The End Hunger Fast campaign says a third of those in food poverty are children, while some parents regularly skip meals.

Burton’s Salvation Army said emergency food handouts rose by 118 per cent since March 2013, with 109 parcels delivered to 244 people in March – including 100 children.

Major Jane Morris, who is involved with its operation in Mosley Street, told the Mail: “It’s a dreadful shame that we still have food poverty today.

“Hopefully this campaign will bring to people’s minds that food poverty exists.”

Proponents of End Hunger Fast also claim food poverty has no place in Britain, which is the sixth largest economy in the world.

Jon Wheale, who will stand for Labour in Burton at next year’s General Election, said: “The massive support in Burton shows people share our belief that this outrageous situation has no place in this country.

“Morality alone dictates that this cannot be allowed to continue.”

THE Government’s department for welfare has hit back at data which claimed there has been a massive rise in emergency food handouts.

The UK’s largest food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, said almost one million people received food parcels in the last year.

The trust claimed some had struggled to buy food due to welfare reforms.

But the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions challenged the trust’s data and said some claimants could have been counted twice.

A spokesman said the department was spending £94 billion a year on working age benefits to provide ‘a safety net’ for those on low incomes or unemployed to meet their basic needs.

He added: “The truth is that the employment rate is the highest it’s been for five years.

“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.”

The row came as 40 Anglican Bishops and church leaders have branded food poverty a ‘national crisis’ in an open letter to the three main political parties.

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