A report launched this week has estimated that churches across the UK have provided more than 5 million meals per month during the coronavirus pandemic.
The report, which looks at the impact of the church's response to lockdown among a network of churches called YourNeighbour, suggests 58 per cent of the 1,100 churches who are a part of Your Neighbour have provided emergency food despite nearly all of them facing financial hardship themselves.
As the Government now seeks to defend its decision not to extend the offer of free meals to the poorest children in the country over the school holidays, churches, charities and business across the country are stepping in to fill the gap and feed them.
Tim Pikington, director of YourNeighbour told Premier their work is crucial: "In my own town in Cambridge, there was a survey done back around July time that showed there were quite a lot of children being admitted to hospital with malnutrition. This isn't just the fact that people are 'a little bit hungry', it's that children genuinely have not been having enough to eat. These meals that we've been providing have been just so essential."
Speaking about whether the church should simply 'fill the gap' or campaign for political change on the matter, Pilkington said: "I think the church can feel free to speak out when it sees children not having enough. They can say that is not acceptable. I think that's the basic human thing - God would not be happy that children do not have enough to eat. The children are hungry, and not just hungry for a short period of time but persistently hungry.
"Whether we want to get into the politics of that, I'd leave that to individual church leaders to judge whether they think they want to make political points, but I think something we can absolutely unite around is that that is not okay. And that as a Church, we can do something about that."
The network includes churches from the Church of England, Salvation Army, Baptists Together, Assemblies of God, Vineyard, and the Methodist Church. The report found that 57 per cent of churches surveyed provided befriending services to the elderly and isolated and almost half of the surveyed churches started a new community engagement initiative during the pandemic
Pilkington added: "It's been so inspiring to see that a time when the church has had to, at times, close its doors, that it's certainly being completely open for business. And at times when we've had a narrative about having to be socially distanced, the church has done amazing things at staying connected in its communities."