The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that the UK government's policies on benefit sanctions and welfare reforms are leaving British people unable to feed themselves and their families. Justin Welby described the country's hunger problem as a "tragedy".
Welby's comments were printed in a foreword for a report published on 10 December, which claimed British children are going hungry because of poverty. The 'Feeding Britain' report was published by MPs and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger, outlining a number of government policies that are causing people to go hungry for days.
Archbishop Welby wrote: "I remain saddened because there is clear evidence here that there are far too many continuing to struggle to feed themselves and their families in Britain in the 21st century."
The report proposes a tax on fizzy drinks to help fund a national project for elimination of child hunger and noted that a delay in benefit payments was pushing British people to hunger and forcing them to use food banks more often.
Figures from the UK's largest food bank network, the Trussel Trust, revealed that it fed 1.1 million people between April and March 2015, a 19% increase on the previous year. The report from the APPG on Hunger suggested that food banks should be provided with trained specialists who could offer advice on budgeting.
Welby said: "It is shocking to read both of the scale of food waste and also of the large amount of evidence that sanctions and delays in connection with the benefits system are still causing what would appear to be unnecessary problems."
Labour MP Frank Field, a former Labour cabinet minister, warned that the current UK government was treating the hunger situation "as a boil of no significance" and called for an equivalent to the government's Cobra committee to be established in response to the hunger problem.
Field said: "What is the point of being in government unless you are really going to do something about that? Each night we and the prime minister go to bed knowing that kids have gone to bed hungry."
The report has also recommended that supermarkets should use proceeds from the 5p charge on plastic bags to transfer food that is otherwise going to waste and ensure that it reaches those in need. Furthermore, it called on charities, government, councils and supermarkets to work together to end food wastage.
Responding to the report, a government spokesperson said: "We agree with the all-party group that nobody should go hungry, especially when surplus food goes to waste. We will therefore carefully consider the recommendations made in this report."