CHRISTMAS has this year become synonymous with food banks as many struggle to make ends meet, the Bishop of Jarrow has suggested in his festive message to the region.
In his address, the Right Revd Mark Bryant asks: “I wonder if 2013 will go down in history as the year that in this country we discovered Food Banks?” while applauding the generosity and compassion of folk in tough times.
And the Rt Rev Bryant says food banks are not just helping those out of work, but many in jobs who are suffering in austere conditions.
In his Christmas message, he said: “Wherever I go across the region, almost every day I hear stories of people for whom life is becoming more difficult than I can even begin to imagine. I hear stories, too, of amazing generosity, as people give time and money to support people.
“It seems impossible this year to separate Christmas and food banks.
“While very many of us will be spending more and eating more than we do at other times of the year, the media coverage and the collections outside our supermarkets will make it difficult to forget that we are a deeply divided country in which something is very deeply wrong.
“If there is hope – and I surely believe there is – for me it lies in the extraordinary generosity of so many.
“People I talk to who collect outside supermarkets tell me of the amazing generosity of so many.
“Somebody recently suggested to me that it may be the least well-off who are often the most generous.
“My sense is that in many places people are becoming strangely more – rather than less – compassionate.
“Time and time again people say to me ‘I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like not to be able to feed your children’.
“I hear the same story from people who give a bed to a homeless teenager for the night through the wonderful Nightstop scheme. People say ‘I would want to think that if my lad was homeless, somebody would take him in!’.
“It seems that people’s hearts are becoming softer. Some of us seem to be becoming more compassionate, and that gives me hope.
“There have been those this year who have seemed to want us to harden our hearts with their talk of benefit scroungers – ignoring the fact that very many people on benefits are in work, and some foodbanks report that sometimes their busiest time of the day is when people are going home from work.
“The good news is how many people refuse to let their hearts be hardened and persist in being generous. That gives me hope.”
n Food for thought ... Page 6