Anglican Leader Says Plight of Hungry in Britain More Shocking Than in Africa

Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, pauses at the start of the day's proceedings at the General Synod, in Church House in central London November 20, 2013. Andrew Winning/Reuters

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he found seeing the hungry in Britain to be less serious but more shocking than the plight of those starving in some places in Africa.

Justin Welby, head of the 80-million strong Anglican communion, compared his two recent experiences of seeing hungry people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to talking to a family making a collection of free food in England.

"I found their plight more shocking. It was less serious, but it was here. And they weren't careless with what they had – they were just up against it," Welby wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

"The scale of waste in this country is astonishing. As a nation we discard about 15 million tons of food a year, at least four million thrown out by households," he said.

A cross-party parliamentary inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty published on Monday highlighted the growing reliance by needy Britons on food banks, which provide the needy with free emergency supplies.

The Hunger and Food Poverty inquiry found that the number of people in Britain provided with emergency food assistance by one charity, the Trussell Trust, rose to 913,138 in 2013-14, up seven-fold from 2011-12.

Administrative delays in paying state benefits was the reason many people visited food banks, the inquiry found. It recommended that the government reform the system to deliver payments more quickly.

Welby and other religious leaders have in the past criticized Britain's current government for the cuts it has made to the welfare payouts, part of its effort to reduce a large budget deficit.

Religious leaders say they have forced rising numbers of people to use free food banks, skip meals and turn off heating to save money.

Britain's $2.8 trillion economy is forecast to grow faster than any other Group of Seven economy country this year. The economy is forecast to grow 3 percent in 2014 and 2.4 percent forecast for 2015.