Food poverty fight vicar targets PM

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A Mansfield vicar who fasted for 40 days to highlight food poverty in the UK has met up with Prime Minister David Cameron.

Rev Keith Hebden, vicar of St Mark’s, in Nottingham Road, met Mr Cameron at the weekend, to press the Government to make work and welfare pay, and to tackle the rising cost of food.

The End Hunger Fast campaigner was joined by the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard.

Rev Hebden told Chad: “We tried to deliver a letter to Mr Cameron’s constituency office before Easter, but unfortunately we were turned away on that occasion.

“This meeting a few weeks later gave us the chance to talk to the Prime Minister about the urgent problem of hunger in Britain.

“Specifically, we’ve asked that 95 per cent of welfare payments are made within the target deadline of 16 days, instead of the current 92 per cent, which though rising, is still not good enough.

“We want people who are given sanctions to be properly informed about their next steps, and that means a commitment to ensure that staff at job centres are better trained.

“And we asked the Prime Minister to accept the offer of an independent group of academics to monitor UK nutrition and hunger statistics. Mr Cameron heard our case and promised to consult with Ian Duncan Smith and respond in the next few weeks.”

The End Hunger Fast campaign took off at Lent, with a Twitter reach of over a million, when church leaders committed themselves to fast in solidarity with those who go hungry in Britain today, with Rev Hebden himself fasting for 40 days.

Bishop John added: “I understand the need for a change of culture around welfare, it cannot be right that so many people are going hungry. My worry is that the safety net for the most vulnerable in our society has disappeared.”