Food banks

London Churches conducted a Theological Enqury into food banks.

The outcome can be found HERE in A Common Voice on Food Banks

The document includes suggestions for "What Next?", Key messages, Biblical texts and other resources.

For more about
the The Theological Enquiry, see below.
 

The process

London Churches Social Action formed a group to steer a theological reflection on the issue of food banks in December 2013. In January we agreed the following process:

- initial agreement about the theological process (Late January)

- information gathering, including stories from food banks (Feb/March/April)

- bring the information into conversation with scripture/tradition at a larger event, making use of ‘Action Research Church and Society’ method (June)

- distillation of draft learning by a core group (July/August)

- sharing of draft learning within wider network and with London Church Leaders (September/October)

- Launch of London Churches Common Voice on Food Banks (December 2014)


Interviews

A number of us made an individual visit, each to different food banks in London, and spoke with food bank leaders/volunteers.

Questions

1.    Tell me the story of how this food bank started?

2.    Why did you get involved?

3.    What has kept you coming?

4.    What do you get out of coming?

5.    What have you found challenging?

6.    Before you started, why did you think people would be using the food bank?

7.    Has your understanding changed?

8.    How does your involvement relate to your own church’s mission/your discipleship?

9.    What difference does is make that this food bank is run by Christians (if it is)?

10.  How has being involved changed the way you see…

                             i.   people who use food banks?

                                         ii.    food?

                                        iii.    the media?

                                        iv.    wider society?

                                         v.    your  faith?

11.  In what ways have you seen other people’s attitudes change?

12.  Where do you see this in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years time?

13.  What else do you think the church should be doing?

**. Given everything we’ve talked about, do you have a message that you’d like to send to

      the people in power?


Some responses

The core group then met to consider the responses, to which we all had access. We attended to the “operant voice” of the interviews to identify our two themes. Some of the responses that we noted were as follows.

1.    Tell me the story of how this food bank started?

“I was made redundant at end of 2010 and felt God’s call on my life to do something within church.” “God set me up.”

 

2.    Why did you get involved?

“I got involved because I felt God calling me to do this work.”

3.    What has kept you coming?

“The look on people’s faces.” “People need us.”

4.    What do you get out of coming?

“A sense of God’s love, hope that we can do something to help people, there is another way.”; “Companionship.” “I really like helping people.” “I love meeting people’s needs.” “a greater sense of outrage that the government allow this kind of need to exist.”

5.    What have you found challenging?

“Those who don’t help themselves, but we’re not here to judge.”; “I am not a social-worker here, here to give unconditionally.”

6.    Before you started, why did you think people would be using the food bank?

“Because people hungry.”

7.    Has your understanding changed?

“I felt it would be a wide range people but did not realise quite extent of poverty some people were in.”; “More in genuine need than those exploiting.” “combined impact of high-food, high-fuel, low-wages, zero contract hours, illness.” “I notice there are so many reasons why people come and food poverty is often just the symptom of a wider problem.” “completely.”

8.    How does your involvement relate to your own church’s mission/your discipleship?

“My church wants to be active in the community, showing people love and cared for.” “When I was hungry, did you feed me?” “The church’s mission is to serve the community and my involvement is helping to make that happen.” “It is meeting the call to love Brixton.”

9.    What difference does is make that this food bank is run by Christians (if it is)?

“I think it is essential as part of the project that it is actively support by the church and our faith is shared.” “I don’t think it matters too much who runs it; what matters is that people care.” “Good for the image of the church. It’s practical. It’s real.”

10.  How has being involved changed the way you see…

people who use food banks?

Men come here to cry, that is why there are tissues on the tables.” “It’s humbling, they come for tea and to be listened to.”

food? 

“I can’t bear to waste it now.” “Why do I store food?”

the media? 

“Sad that Edwina Curry said they are not needed.”

wider society?

“Amazes me how generous people are, how supportive and encouraging.” “Don’t need to be on benefits to need a foodbank.”

your  faith? 

So many ways you can help the person you pass on the street.”

11.  In what ways have you seen other people’s attitudes change?

“I have seen volunteers totally change how they view clients and want to do more. People grow in faith as they now act as pastoral team.” “More like Lion of Judah…church got power. People do not want to be part of a church in retreat.”

12.  Where do you see this in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years time?

“We always say we would hope that Foodbanks will not be needed but at moment we want to be able to do more signposting to help people move out of poverty.” “Diversifying…preventative work, credit unions, etc.” “Not just a foodbank but a help station.”

13.  What else do you think the church should be doing?

“The churches need to work together and share the load. So provide jobs club, debt advice, friendship, hot meals….The church needs to speak out about poverty….” “Getting out there more and looking at need.” “Getting your hands dirty.” “I think the church should be more involved and more vocal in the fight against injustices in our government and the way they handle the benefits system.”

 

**. Given everything we’ve talked about, do you have a message that you’d like to send to the people in power?

 

“Accept people are desperate; come down from high-horses.”

 

The seminar 

Foodbanks Seminar - June 2014



The London Churches Seminar
for the Theological Enquiry into Food Banks was held on Monday 9th June 2014, at the Contextual Theology Centre, St Katherine's Foundation

The seminar explored two themes which the core research team developed through attending to the "operant voice" of those engaged in running or volunteering at a number of church-led food banks across London. It shared quotes from some of the interviews we conducted and brought this operant voice into conversation with the "espoused voice" (what food banks proclaim to be about officially), the "normative voice" (of the scriptural and theological traditions of the churches) and the “formal voice" (what is emerging from academic theology and other disciplines) in relation to foodbanks. It also attended to God through prayer and silence, seeking to discern ‘what the Spirit is saying to the churches’ on foodbanks.

There were words of welcome from St Katherine’s Foundation, Andy Walton of the Contextual Theology Centre and London Churches Social Action’s Terry Drummond.
Over 45 people attended from a wide variety of church traditions across London (see participants here)

Opening and closing prayers were led by George Ansah. The day also included 3 periods of 5 minute silence to reflect on what the Spirit is saying to the churches. People were also asked to bring Bible stories/texts with them (see here)


Theme: "In what ways do food banks represent challenge and opportunity for Christian discipleship?"
Input from Steven Saxby for the core research team - listen here
input from Andrew Bradstock (Joint Public Issues Team) listen here
and Jon May (Queen Mary University)listen here
group discussions, plenary
and response from Alison Gelder (Housing Justice)listen here

Theme: "What are the churches learning through food banks about justice, empowerment and advocacy?”
Input from Stephen Sichel for the core research teamlisten here
input from Mike Leader (Greenwich Food Bank)listen here
and Alison Webster (Diocese of Oxford) listen here
group discussion, plenary
and response from Clare Watkins (Heythrop College)listen here

Conversation continued over Lunch
The afternoon consisted of two public conversations aimed at forming some learning from the morning sessions to feed into the London Churches' "common voice" on food banks
Conversation A – listen here
Conversation B – listen here

There was some tweeting throughout the day @londonchurches #foodbanktheology #foodbankstheology

Next steps are for the core research team to meet, reflect and draft some “common voice” to share with others.


Some resources (all accessed on-line 10/6/2014)

'Below the Breadline'


‘Faith in Foodbanks’

http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/FaithInFoodbanks-Full-Resource.pdf


Greater London Assembly’s ‘A Zero Hunger City’ https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/A%20Zero%20Hunger%20City.doc.pdf

 

‘Truth and Lies about Foodbanks’


‘Foodbank users need justice more than charity, says church leader’

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19719

‘Ministers must stop ignoring the growth of food banks’

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/dec/19/ministers-growth-food-banks,

 

‘UK is violating the basic right to food, say charities’

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20418

FOODBANK FIGURES TOP 900,000: LIFE HAS GOT WORSE NOT BETTER FOR POOREST IN 2013/14, AND THIS IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.’

http://www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-figures-top-900000

 

 ‘A ‘right to food’ approach can help to determine ultimate responsibility for preventing hunger’

http://speri.dept.shef.ac.uk/2014/04/09/food-banks-welfare-reform/

 

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty is conducting an inquiry into foodbanks, co-chaired by Frank Field MP and the Bishop of Truro. Comments can be sent to The Bishop of Truro, The Rt Revd Tim Thornton, Lis Escop, Truro, Cornwall. TR3 6QQ Telephone: 01872 862657; bishop@truro.anglican.org