The number of food banks is on the rise in Northern Ireland. According to Advice NI, the number of food banks in Northern Ireland has increased from two in 2011, to at least 14 in 2014, and Trussell Trust reports distributing more than 11,000 free food parcels this year. Churches have taken a lead in mobilising volunteers, distributing food parcels to those in need, and working with charity and statutory organisations to get people the support they need to improve their circumstances. But the goal must always be a society in which no one goes hungry and where food banks no longer exist.
On Thursday, 4th December, at Queen’s University, Christians on the Left will host a debate exploring the practical, theological and political dimensions of food poverty. Christians on the Left is officially connected to the British Labour Party, but has taken on a multi-party shape in Northern Ireland, with members and support coming from across our political spectrum. The event will be opened by director of Christians on the Left, Andy Flannagan, a Portadown native who now lives and works in London.
On the panel, front-line practitioners, theologians, and policy thinkers will discuss a wide range of issues including: what’s happening on the front lines of food poverty; food banks and welfare reform; theological and Biblical dimensions of food poverty; and what policy ideas are needed to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in our society. While the event is hosted by Christians on the Left, the panel, and indeed the audience, will not necessarily be coming from a Christian or Left-wing background. All are encouraged to come down, join the debate, and engage the panel.
I write about faith, democracy and culture from a Christian and centre-left perspective.