Bishop of Liverpool back Right to Food campaign
3 years ago
The Bishop of Liverpool has issued a call for churches and Christians across the Diocese of Liverpool to sign a petition to enshrine the ‘Right to Food’ in UK law.
The Right Reverend Paul Bayes is the latest city region leader to back the campaign, after city councillors unanimously voted for the ‘Right to Food’ to be incorporated into the Government’s national food strategy and subsequently become law.
Bishop Paul issued a joint call with the leaders of local Diocesan social justice charity Together Liverpool, ecumenical group Feeding Liverpool, and Micah Liverpool which is the Cathedral of Liverpool’s emergency food aid charity.
All three organisations have been instrumental in supplying over 30,000 food parcels to local people in poverty throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, supporting churches and volunteers to provide vital supplies through foodbanks, pantries and community markets.
Bishop Paul invited churches across the diocese to support the Right to Food campaign, which was first led by Liverpool-based national grassroots football fan network Fans Supporting Foodbanks, and backed in Parliament by Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne, a co-founder of Fans Supporting Foodbanks.
He urged Christians across the city region to speak out, to hold governments to account and call on decision makers to take proactive steps to prevent the stark realities of poverty being witnessed at foodbanks and other community organisations.
Bishop Paul said:
“Through this campaign we are calling on the Government to embed the Right to Food into law, building a system of legal safeguards which can protect the most vulnerable in our society.
“As Christians, we believe food is a gift given from God to all human beings, not just to some.
“We want to live in a society where everyone is able to afford healthy and nutritious food, where food is a source of enjoyment not of anxiety, and where nobody goes to bed hungry.
“Sadly, this vision is not yet a reality. In 2021, churches, alongside hundreds of community groups and voluntary organisations, continue to ‘stand in the gap’, offering vital support to prevent households being pulled further into poverty.
“From Southport to Wigan, Widnes to Liverpool, churches continue to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, provide shelter for the weary and offer comfort to the bereaved and lonely.”
Bishop Paul has long been an advocate of efforts to combat food insecurity, and his appointment as the Eighth Bishop of Liverpool was announced from the foodbank at St Andrew’s church in Clubmoor, part of St Andrew’s Community Network.
He has previously advocated strongly for the government to make its benefit system fit for purpose, condemning the negative impact of benefits sanctions including the Universal Credit five week wait, has called the need for foodbanks a “scandal”, and is a signatory on the End Hunger UK campaign. He is joint chair of the Citywide Strategy Group for Fairness and Tackling Poverty, along with Councillor Jane Corbett, Mayoral Lead – Fairness & Tackling Poverty.
The Bishop added: “In supporting the Right to Food campaign we are inviting you to speak out, to call on the decisions makers in this country to take a proactive step towards preventing the stark realities we are seeing and hearing in our foodbanks, night shelters, afterschool clubs, parent and toddler groups, coffee mornings, and communities today.
“We invite you to hold subsequent governments to account, ensuring their policies work towards the vision agreed through the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and to lay a precious cornerstone in building a society where every household can afford healthy and nutritious food.”
The Bishop’s calls were echoed by the Reverend Canon Dr Ellen Loudon, Director of Social Justice and Canon Chancellor for the Diocese of Liverpool who is also chair of social justice charities Together Liverpool, and Micah Liverpool.
Canon Ellen said: “Our staff and volunteers at Together Liverpool, Micah Liverpool and our partners including those we supply through our partnership with Feeding Liverpool, witness daily the shocking reality of poverty experienced by people living on the breadline.
“We are proud of the community spirit which means local people continue to act as a safety net for each other, through foodbanks, pantries and community markets, but we should not have to exist.
“It is scandalous that anyone should go hungry in the UK today and we urgently call on everyone to back this campaign by signing the Right to Food petition online and please encourage your friends and family to do the same.”
Bishop Paul and Canon Ellen both also recently attended an Assembly on Sustainable and Affordable Food organised by VS6, a partnership representing the voluntary and faith sectors across the city region, focused on developing an affordable and sustainable food policy for the city region.
The Right To Food campaign is being backed in Parliament by Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne, a co-founder of Fans Supporting Foodbanks. In December he tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in Parliament on Food Insecurity which has secured the support of more than fifty MPs so far.
Mr Byrne said: “Liverpool can be a catalyst for the systemic changes we need to tackle the evils of food poverty so we are delighted to receive the support from the Bishop, Together Liverpool and Micah Liverpool in our campaign to put the Right to Food into legislation for all.”
In a statement Feeding Liverpool, Liverpool’s Food Alliance, which works in close partnership with Together Liverpool and Micah Liverpool to tackle food insecurity said: “Through this campaign, we are calling on the Government to enshrine the Right to Food into legislation as a key building block towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by the UK Government in 2015.
“The first three Sustainable Development Goals set out a commitment to ‘end poverty in all its forms, everywhere’, ‘end hunger and achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’, and ‘ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages’: in short describing a society where everyone is able to afford healthy and nutritious food – where no one goes to bed hungry.
“Sadly, these goals are yet to be realised, with many households across Liverpool and the UK in 2021 still locked in poverty, unable to afford to put healthy food on the table. Over the last six week’s Feeding Liverpool’s Winter Boost scheme – providing fresh fruit and vegetables to vulnerable households, was called upon to support 3297 people in our city, including 1169 children. This is not right.
“We are proud of the tremendous collective effort across our city in supporting the most vulnerable during the Covid pandemic, yet despite this, poverty is becoming further entrenched, with the pandemic disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable households in Liverpool.
“2020/2021 has seen a rise in the number of households accessing emergency food provision, applying for help via the Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme and requesting “Discretionary Housing Payments. Whilst these trends have been accentuated by the pandemic, they follow the direction of travel of the last few years as we see more households struggle to stay above the breadline, in a city crippled by the effects of austerity.
“Our city’s foodbanks repeatedly report ‘Low Income’ as the most common reason why households need to access emergency food provision, showing that the safety net is not working. We are in desperate need of policies that ensure adequate household incomes to enable households to afford healthy food.
“Through the Right to Food campaign we are calling on the Government to take a proactive approach to address what we are seeing and hearing in our city, to choose to step towards a society where every household can afford healthy and nutritious food, every day, by building a legislative structure that will hold successive Governments to account to the vision set out through the Sustainable Development Goals.
“This is not a new ask, nor will it solve all the problems we see today, but it is a vital building block towards safeguarding the lives of future generations.”
The National Food Strategy is the first independent review of England’s entire food system for seventy-five years, led by British entrepreneur and cookery writer Henry Dimbleby.
It next reports to Government in Spring and the Right To Food campaign wants the eleven million people currently living in food poverty in the UK to be placed at the heart of its strategy.
The motion voted through by Liverpool City Councillors last week noted the consistently high rates of poverty across the city of Liverpool and the growing concern amongst the city’s health and social care professionals over the current situation and the likely exacerbation of poverty through the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty in 2021.