'Hunger in Britain is more shocking than in Africa,' says Welby

The Most Rev Justin Welby. Credit: PA

The Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed the plight of Britain's hunger-stricken shocked him more than the suffering he had seen in African refugee camps.

He said food was being wasted at "astonishing" levels across the UK and families were being forced to turn to food banks despite holding down jobs.

His comments came ahead of the publication of a parliament report on Monday setting out a blueprint to eliminate hunger in Britain by 2020.

Urging ministers and the food industry to act, the Most Rev Justin Welby told The Mail on Sunday he was so taken aback as hunger in Britain was so unexpected.

He explained: "In one corner of a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo was a large marquee. Inside were children, all ill.

"They had been abandoned in the panic of the militia attack that drove them from their homes. Now they were hungry. It was deeply shocking but, tragically, expected.

"A few weeks later in England, I was talking to some people - a mum, dad and one child - in a food bank.

"They were ashamed to be there. The dad talked miserably. He said they had each been skipping a day's meals once a week in order to have more for the child, but then they needed new tyres for the car so they could get to work at night, and just could not make ends meet.

"So they had to come to a food bank. They were treated with respect, love even, by the volunteers from local churches. But they were hungry, and ashamed to be hungry.

"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.

"It shocked me that being up against it at the wrong time brought them to this stage. There are many like them. But we can do something about it."

The number of people using food banks at Christmas tripled last year. Credit: PA

In recent years, there has been a massive increase in the number of food banks across Britain.

Cash to help people suffering extreme poverty across the EU was backed in a vote at the European Parliament.

But the Government were accused of "taking food from the mouths of children" after deciding it was better decided nationally than by Brussels.

Archbishop Welby called for reforms that would allow food companies to pass on goods they could no longer sell.

He said: "At least some of the food being sent to the incinerator should be used as a force for good to help (the poor) out of the rut in which they find themselves.

"We need to make it easier for food companies to give edible surplus food to charities and still encourage them to send inedible food for energy production.

"The big names in the food business have a moral obligation to communities. We need to make sure that the financial incentives in their industry don't act against their moral instincts."