“…Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry…’”
John 6:35 (NIV)
The world’s first food bank was established in the US in 1967, and since then many thousands have been set up all over the world. Until recently the UK had little need for food banks due to its extensive welfare system, but following the financial crisis and the austerity measures that followed it from 2010, hunger has become a prominent issue and there has been a rapid growth in the provision of food banks.
In 2004 the Trussell Trust, a Christian charity based in Salisbury which serves as the UK’s only food bank network, only ran two food banks. In 2011, about one new food bank was being opened per week and in 2012 about two or three were being opened each week. According to a report by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty, about half a million Britons have used food banks. (‘Walking the breadline: the scandal of food poverty in 21st century Britain’ May 2013)
In December 2014 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote, rather provocatively, how he was left more shocked by the plight of Britain’s hunger-stricken poor than by suffering in African refugee camps. He said that “although less serious, the plight of a family who turned to a food bank in Britain shocked him more than terrible suffering in Africa because it was so unexpected.”
Hunger for people in the UK and around the world is a serious issue when, as the Archbishop pointed out, so much food is wasted (food banks and other charities currently receive just 2 per cent of the 4.3 million tonnes of waste food generated by the food industry every year). A parliamentary report, ‘Feeding Britain’ (Dec 2014) sets out a blueprint to eliminate hunger in Britain by 2020 and urges ministers and the food industry to act.
As I was thinking about the plight of the hungry here and abroad I couldn’t help but think of an even more serious problem: The plight of the spiritual hungry. Physical hunger may or may not be eliminated in the UK by 2020 but what about people’s need for spiritual food? Will that need be satisfied by 2020? The only way man’s spiritual hunger will be satiated is by feeding on Jesus, the bread of life; the bread that will never spoil but endures to eternal life (c.f. John 6:27). How will people be able to receive this bread? Let me suggest that our congregations should be spiritual food banks where the spiritually hungry can come to hear about Jesus and receive the bread of life. After all ‘Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread’. (D.T. Niles, New York Times, May 11, 1986)
Wouldn’t it be great if spiritual food banks were opening in the UK at the rate of two or three a week?
Father, we are but beggars; but because of your grace we have found the bread of life. Please give us the heart to tell fellow beggars where this bread is so that they too may be satisfied.
Study by Barry Robinson
Worldwide Church of God London
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square
Local Congregational Contact:
Phone: 020 8202 3998