Food Banks struggle in school holidays

Food Banks are struggling to meet the demand for food during the school holidays.  David McAuley, chief executive of anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust, has warned that some hubs within the 420-strong network are running dangerously low on supplies.

“Rising demand in the summer holidays as families struggle to get by without free school meals” is at the root of the problem, he said.

Rev Chris Lewis who helps at a Swansea Food Bank said that last Friday,  “We got to a critically low level. The absence of free school meals during holidays contributes to a certain amount of hardship and pressure on food banks.  I wasn’t able to count exactly how many people came in on Friday because I had to go out and get a bag of large potatoes from off site to help with the demand.”

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We learn about the Trussell Trust as part of our GCSE in Religious Studies as we look at Christian Practices.

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In April 2017 Food Banks were in the news when Theresa May as part of her election campaign went onto BBC television and responded to the presenter Andrew Marr’s point that NHS nurses were having to go to Food Banks which was surely wrong.

Theresa May replied: “There are many complex reasons why people go to food banks and I want to create an economy where we have a strong economy where we pay for public services that we need but we are also creating secure jobs.”

Marr said: “The problem people have is that they haven’t got enough money to eat at the moment.”

The Prime Minister said: “Yes, and you’re only going to be able to do this if you have strength in the economy.”

Bread can’t be gluten free says Catholic Church

It’s not a hugely exciting headline. The Vatican (home of the Catholic Church) has said that the bread which is used to celebrate the Eucharist during Roman Catholic Mass must not be gluten-free – although it may be made from genetically modified organisms. Cardinal Robert Sarah explained that the bread can be low-gluten but should have enough protein in the wheat to make it without additives. What does make it exciting for GCSE Religious Studies students is that the article which explains these precise rules also refers to the fact that Roman Catholics believe the bread and wine served at the Eucharist are converted into the body and blood of Christ through a process known as transubstantiation.

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The Eucharist, which is also called the Holy Communion, Mass, the Lord’s Supper or the Divine Liturgy, is a sacrament accepted by almost all Christians. Most students have heard of the Last Supper and how Christians re-enact the key moment on at least a weekly basis when they celebrate the Eucharist.

The idea of transubstantiation helps explain why in the Catholic Church women can’t be priests, as the Eucharist has to be performed by a male priest for he is acting as Jesus ‘in loco Christos’ when the bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ.

Broken – a TV series with plenty of religious content to learn from

The six-part series called Broken, which stars Sean Bean and Anna Friel, first aired on Tuesday 30th May. If you missed the first episode go to BBC iPlayer to catch up (until mid-July). Why? Well for a drip feed of Catholic religious beliefs, teachings and practice for the AQA Component 1 exam, this TV series is a ‘godsend’!

You will be able to see in the first episode the role of a priest in the local community; the preparations for First Holy Communion; the Eucharist; the importance of prayer; the last rites for a dead person and confession. If you’ve never been inside a Christian church before, or it has been a long time, then just by watching this drama by Jimmy McGovern you’ll see how the place of worship is used by a community in Northern England.

To top it off there is also a mention of Food Banks – perfect GCSE content!

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2,000 Food Banks in UK giving out food parcels

New research by the Independent Food Aid Network has supported what the Trussell Trust (the biggest food bank network in the UK) has been saying: food banks are having to give support to more and more people in the UK and the needs have been increasing over the last nine years. Professor Jon May and chair of Ifan announced: “There are now food banks in almost every community, from the East End of London to the Cotswolds. The spread of food banks maps growing problems of poverty across the UK, but also the growing drive among many thousands of people across the country to try and do something about those problems”.

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The reasons why people are having to turn to Food Banks to provide their food are varied:

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The Ifan survey revealed a wide variety of food-banks with some faith-based, others non-religious; some with strict rules on the amount of food given to individual clients, others with open-ended commitments to families in need; some requiring clients to have a voucher validated by outside agencies, others operating a self-referral system.

British government have repeatedly played down the rise of food banks, rejecting growing evidence that financial pressures on families caused by welfare cuts, benefit delays and low income have pushed a demand for emergency food. Recently, the prime minister, Theresa May, attempted to brush off claims that nurses had been forced to use food banks by saying there were “many complex reasons” why people use them. The graph above showed that there are different reasons why people use them but basically families in 2017 Britain are starving and need emergency food to survive.

Food bank investigation by the Sunday Mirror

The Trussell Trust is a 400 strong network of food banks in the UK and a case study in our GCSE Religious Studies.

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It is a charity founded on Christian principles. They work with people of all faiths and none (just like Christian Aid), and are inspired by the words of Jesus in Matthew 25: 35 – 36. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Students will recognise this as coming from the Parable of the Sheep and Goats which we learn in our studies of evil and suffering, as well as Christian beliefs and teachings. In the parable Jesus returns to reward all those who have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited those in prison, and cared for the sick, teaching Christians to care for those who are suffering. Jesus’ message here is that by ignoring a sick or hungry person, a Christian would be ignoring Jesus himself.

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The Trussell Trust’s vision is to end hunger and poverty in the UK and their mission is to bring communities together to end hunger and poverty in the UK by providing compassionate, practical help with dignity whilst challenging injustice.

Head Transplants one step closer in humans

The first human head transplant is planned for later this year and it looks one step closer as scientists report that they’ve successfully transplanted a smaller rat’s head onto another larger rat. The operation involved three rats in total: the donor, the recipient and a third used to maintain the blood supply to the transplanted head. After the operation, the rat whose head had been transplanted was able to see and feel pain, showing the brain was functioning despite having been detached from its original body.

Not all scientists are impressed with this path towards human head transplants: Hunt Batjer, the president elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons, has criticised the plans to transplant a human head. “I would not wish this on anyone,” he said. “I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death.”

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Russia persecutes Jehovah’s Witnesses

You might have been so busy watching North Korea weapons testing or the rise of fascism in France to have noticed that in Russia the Supreme Court has suppressed the group and confiscated all of its property.

Definition of persecution for Students

  1. the act of continually treating in a cruel and harmful way

  2. the state of being continually treated in a cruel and harmful way

Since 2004 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have been treated like a fundamentalist group. Their meeting places called Kingdom Halls, have repeatedly been raided, members have been imprisoned for refusing military service, and the ministry of justice has sued to have them declared an extremist organisation. If the group can’t overturn the recent Supreme Court ruling all their Kingdom Halls will become property of the Russian state.

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There are roughly 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide and currently 175,000 members of the organisation in Russia. The persecution of this religious group is for some reason not making huge headlines though is being reported, for example on the BBC.
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Lifestyle Rationing or Health Optimisation?

Quite often in Religious Studies lessons our discussion lead us to the NHS – the National Health Service in Britain which provides free medical treatment to people resident in the country. If we are discussing the causes of crime; illegal drugs; alcohol and cigarette addiction; multi-faith society; and immigration we often at some point mention the NHS and its benefits and flaws.

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So what do we think about some NHS trusts having a criteria which puts smokers and obese people at the back of the queue for certain treatments like hip and knee operations? The critics call it ‘lifestyle rationing’ whereas the NHS Trust says they advise patients to improve their lifestyle over 6 months as health optimisation. Now other NHS Trusts might take up this policy and so people are debating whether it is morally fair: the Evening Standard, The Sun, The Independent,  and BBC all reported this story.

What might a religious person think about this debate? With regards Christianity we could refer to: sanctity of life, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Parable of the Sheep and Goat, Do Not Kill, the Golden Rule, Love Thy Neighbour, live like Jesus, and situation ethics. Whereas for Buddhism we could refer to the 5 Precepts focusing in on Do not Harm and Do not Take Drugs, Karma, Tanha (craving), Karuna (compassion) and Upaya Kausalya (skilful means).