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Vicar urges MP to visit his church-run Community Pantry following claim food bank users can't cook properly

by Kelly Valencia

A vicar in Stock on Trent has written to MP Jonathan Gullis, urging him to spend time at his church's Community Pantry, which is used by 250 families, with a further 50 on the waiting list.

It comes as Conservative MP Lee Anderson sparked controversy this week, after he said poor people visit food banks, because they "cannot cook properly" and "cannot budget", during a debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday. 

In an open letter, Rev Chris Coupe, the vicar of Chell parish, urged Gullis to condone or condemned Anderson's claims. 

"This [Anderson's comments] is blatantly untrue. Our guests, who are also members, of our Community Pantry can cook and can budget.

"They obtain food each week to prepare and cook the healthiest meals possible for their families. We have seen a massive upsurge in need since the cost of living has risen so much, not least in the cost of basic utilities," the letter read. 

Rev Coupe also reiterated his invitation to visit the foodbank. 

"I have previously made an offer for you to visit our Community Pantry, but I did not get a response from you; so as well as asking your view on the above, I repeat my offer for you to visit our Community Pantry, which is used by your constituents and potential voters."

Anderson also said that meals could be cooked for 30p a day. 

Many have called for him to apologise, accusing him of being "out of touch" and branding his comments as "shameful". But the MP for Ashfield, in Nottinghamshire, has defended his comments saying he was trying to "educate people" and make their lives "a little easier". 

He told the BBC: "It wasn't my intention [to start a row] but I am glad the debate is out in the open.

"I see people on a weekly basis who are struggling with the cost of living crisis, struggling with their fuel bills and their food bills. The good news is that we have a fantastic food bank in Sutton-in-Ashfield that is stepping up and helping people with budgeting and cooking skills.

"We proved a point a couple of months back; we did a cooking exercise in Sutton, at the food bank, at the college with a local chef. He put a challenge out to feed a family of five for £50 a week.

"I didn't believe him so we went to the food bank, we had a session there, and he beat the challenge; he produced something like 170, 180 meals for £50 - it was phenomenal. There was piles and piles of food and I thought: 'My goodness, people need to learn this.'"

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