John Cheek argues that when it comes to the crunch, it's Christians who step up to the plate.

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"So we got the dieticians at the local hospital to give us a technical report on how you could live, with various tinned and dried foods, because that's the cheapest way to store and manage food - you don't have a 'cold chain' to manage - that was sufficiently nutritional, over three days.

"The dieticians gave us a twelve-page report and we followed that, with our shopping lists and our suggestions to donors of food. So what you get is 10 meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner and you get options and choice - very, very important because we are passionate about restoring dignity. When somebody comes to a foodbank in crisis, they're at their lowest and the first thing foodbanks do is sit them down, with a cup of tea or coffee if they can; they talk to them, find out more about their problems; they empathise and in that context, they start to talk about food and put together a package of food according to a check-list."

Is it true that many of the families using foodbanks have both husband and wife in paid-employment and yet they're still having to struggle?

"We believe that around half of the people who use the Trussell Trust foodbanks have work. There's someone in the household who's working. This should not surprise any of us, as this country presently has over 13 million people living in poverty - that means that they don't have enough money to make ends meet. Now, people can do their best to budget; their very best, acting in a deeply responsible way to do what they can with the money they have. But it's not enough; you cannot make 'not enough', enough...that's when we step in.

"Crisis occurs; something happens - the washing machine breaks, you have to pay the call-out charge. You have a few small children. You're concerned that if you don't wash their school uniform, they will be reported, once they get to school. You get fearful that the social-services will then be round! So you borrow the money from a payday lender and then you're in trouble. That's what's happening, up-and-down the country; people are struggling on inadequate wages."

At such times, Chris, it does seem that the Church is beginning to step up to the plate.

"There are 12,000 churches involved with Trussell Trust and foodbanks across the country - it's the Church that takes the lead, it takes the risks, it steps up to the plate and says, 'we're going to do something.' We're not going to tolerate this undignified mess in our community and our nation; we're gonna put it right."

Some foodbank volunteers do pray with clients. Moreover, they get alongside them at their hour of need. In the north-west alone, nearly 100,000 emergency three-day food parcels have been given out in just the last six months.

As Chris Mould moves on to helping the poor in Eastern Europe once again, it leaves the impression in this country that, whatever else it is, the Church is following it's Master, during these impoverished times. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.