The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Rev Dr Alastair Redfern: If we all did a little bit more to help, we could tackle the devastating impact of food poverty
The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Rev Dr Alastair Redfern , discusses how we can all do more to stop people going hungry.
I WANT to share two experiences I had, on consecutive days, of trying to recognise and respond to the problems of a particular kind of poverty – food poverty. I invite each of us to reflect carefully about food, for ourselves and for others.
As so many of us graze and snack and buy food and drink "ready to go" – we might give a thought to this often hidden but devastating kind of human need.
Hunger is the most basic, common and regular factor in every human life. We know the importance of a balanced diet. Food is the foundation of life itself and of the quality of life we can enjoy. Supermarkets provide testament to this fact as they stand like modern temples to which the surrounding community comes for sustenance and life.
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Food is the key to human living. It is no coincidence that the basic invitation of Christianity involves gathering around a table to share bread and wine.
Food is necessary for each person but it also connects us. Sharing food is the activity that forms families, friendships, more formal contacts. The table is the place for gathering, sharing, arguing, forgiving, forging our different needs and hopes and fears into something harmonious and good.
But the news about food is not all positive. We live in a world of massive food poverty. As some have plenty, some survive, some go hungry. This was brought home to me in late January.
On a Wednesday evening, I was in London, at Somerset House, for the launch of the IF campaign. The event was held outside in an open courtyard. It was perishing!
A large number of organisations had combined to launch a campaign to tackle the fact that the world produces enough food but there is not enough for everyone to be fed. Bill Nighy, the actor, was there to encourage support for the campaign. Bill Gates gave a message on the big screen.
The key word in this campaign is "IF".
If we were more conscious of how many people are hungry across the globe – then we would make more effort to try to feed them. If we owned up to the fact that the Earth produces enough food for everyone then why are so many people hungry? If over 100 organisations can get together to make a difference, can each of us join in, in our own parishes, our communities, our networks to support this campaign?
The campaign is called the IF campaign. If we did something, then something else might follow. Because many people are hungry, many people are in great need and 2013 could be a year where we could make a difference – if we gave more money. If we bought more fairly-traded goods consciously. If we challenged our politicians to achieve the 0.7% in terms of the money we give to help those in need. If we encourage the Prime Minister to deliver on his promise at the G8 to advance the agenda of the hungry and the importance of international food. If we support tax justice campaigns so that countries that produce wealth can use some of the tax on that wealth to grow their own food and make their own provision.
"If" is a very small word but it can have enormous consequences and this campaign asks all of us to use the word "if" for ourselves – our spending, our resources, our praying, our hopes for a better world in 2013. It is a national campaign, an international campaign, drawing people together. If we can join together and do things then many more people can be lifted out of hunger. That is the message. It is not "if, but" – it is "if, and then we can achieve". "If" is a very personal word. When I visited North India, where the Diocese of Derby has a link with the churches, I went to a community where there were people who were very, very hungry.
In their eyes they were saying to me: "If you wanted to, you could help us."
And my heart was saying to me: "If I tried harder, I could offer more help than I am doing at the moment, through my own lifestyle and giving, through the networks and churches I work in, through the witness I make in the public square."
"If" is a very personal word and it has much bigger connotations when we follow it through. The whole point of this campaign is to invite everybody to take the word "if", and apply it to the really desperate hunger and need of so many of our brothers and sisters.
Let all of us hear that word: "If you wanted to, you could help me more."
And let each of our hearts reflect on that word: "If we tried harder we could make a huge difference."
And that is what this year of 2013 is all about and what our endeavours are about as we join with others for this campaign. Here is a campaign to challenge us all, as consumers, voters, brothers and sisters of people across the globe. IF each of us makes more effort to buy fairly-traded goods, and to challenge our politicians to make food justice a priority through how we vote – THEN we can make a real difference to one of the scandals of our time. One in eight people go hungry across the globe each day.
But – charity and political action challenge much closer to home. On the day after the launch of the International IF campaign in London, I attended a meeting in the Council House in Derby. It was a group of people from different charities and faith communities, discussing how we could operate food banks more effectively in the city and across the county. The number of people without enough food in our own region is rising alarmingly. Not all of them are on the streets. Sometimes, families simply lack the resources to feed themselves properly.
It is a matter of great pride that locally we have so much energy and commitment to develop this vital work. But is it a scandal that the effect of cuts and the difficulty so many, especially the young, may experience in trying to enter the world of work means that there is so much terrible need in our midst.
IF we could work together better in the city and county, we too can begin to make a difference. We need more food bank provision. Also, we need political action to make clear that our values include giving priority to that most basic human need – food, source of life. Too many people are falling below the net. IF each of us tried to respond…
Hold on to the picture – a table – people sharing food and drink – the source and shaper of life. Two campaigns – one global, one local. Both begin by putting to each of us a very short word: IF?