Church leaders in Cornwall have called for long-term action to banish poverty and ensure that no child in future goes hungry in the region and across the country.
In an open letter, the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen; the Bishop of St Germans, the Rt Revd Hugh Nelson; and chair of the Cornwall Methodist District the Revd Steve Wild, call on the Government to commit to ensuring children have enough to eat.
They also praise local communities, churches, schools and restaurants for their action to make sure needy children do not face hunger this half-term, along with Cornwall Council’s decision to support all those eligible with free school meals during the Christmas holidays.
In the open letter they say a wider debate is needed about the kind of society people want to live in, both in the short and long term, arguing the pandemic has both exposed and worsened “shocking levels of poverty”.
“Of course the issues are complex; of course there are difficult decisions to be made about the national finances; of course we don’t want to create dependency.
“But children are going hungry in one of the richest countries in the world,” they write, adding: “The immediate priority is to feed every child; the longer-term invitation to us all is to build a society in which no child goes hungry.”
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The letter adds: “Over the past six months, many of the existing fragilities in society have been exposed and aggravated, including the shocking levels of hunger and poverty in our country.
“The pandemic has made it much worse, but the problem was already there. And over the past few weeks in particular, we have all had to face up to the fact that there are children in our communities who regularly go to bed hungry. We are one of the richest countries in the world and yet there are children without enough to eat.
“Public and prophetic voices like Marcus Rashford speak on behalf of many other more hidden voices in schools, churches, food banks and community organisations, who are asking us to make sure that no child goes hungry during the holidays.
“We also know that free school meals aren’t the ultimate solution. The real problem is that too many people are caught in poverty and that we, society as a whole, have come to accept the unacceptable. And we know that this longer-term challenge isn’t just a question for politicians; it’s for all of us. We all share the responsibility for building the kind of society that we want to live in.
“The pandemic is doing terrible things, but it is also an opportunity; an opportunity to notice what’s really going on and an opportunity to make a change. The immediate priority is to feed every child; the longer-term invitation to us all is to build a society in which no child goes hungry.
“We pray for the courage and imagination to build that kind of society and we commit ourselves to being part of that work.”