October 26, 2020
Church leaders in Cornwall have called on the Government to commit to ensuring that no child in future goes hungry in our country – as well as honouring local communities, churches, schools and restaurants for their action this half-term to ensure children have enough to eat.
The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of St Germans, the Rt Revd Hugh Nelson, and chair of the Cornwall Methodist District, Revd Steve Wild, have written an open letter encouraging discussion about the kind of society we want to live in, both in the short and long term.
They have welcomed Cornwall Council’s decision to fully fund the ongoing provision of free school meals to the most needy children during future school holidays. And they call on the Government to ensure that this decision does not mean funding has to be cut for other services.
Here is the text of their letter:
Food mattered for Jesus. It mattered to him that there was enough for everyone.
Children also mattered to Jesus. They mattered enough that he once said that we should all be more like them.
And at one point Jesus tells a story about food and children, ending with a question; ‘which of you, if your child asks for bread, would give a stone? Or if they ask for a fish, would give a snake?’
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.
“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.”
Public and prophetic voices like Marcus Rashford speak on behalf of many other more hidden voices in schools, churches, food banks and community organisations, asking us to make sure that no child goes hungry during the holidays.
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 – and which one of us, when asked by a child for a meal, would say no?
We welcome the decision of Cornwall Council to fully fund the ongoing provision of free school meals to the most needy children during future school holidays. We call on the Government to ensure this does not mean cuts in other local services.
And we honour all the communities, churches, schools and restaurants who are working hard to make sure no child goes hungry.
And 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.
Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro.
Revd Steven Wild, Cornwall Methodist District Chair.
Rt Revd Hugh Nelson, Bishop of St Germans.