THE Bishop of Taunton, the Rt Rev Peter Maurice, has signed an open letter expressing outrage at the rise in UK hunger.

The letter, published today and signed by over 40 senior faith leaders from all the major Christian denominations, including 27 Church of England Bishops, is calling for urgent political action to end what they describe as a “national crisis”.

Food banks around the UK are reporting that the number of people in need is rising to crisis point as the poorest miss out on the economic recovery.

Over half a million people in the UK have received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust food banks since last Easter.

Meanwhile hospital admissions for malnutrition have almost doubled to 5,500.

The letter says: “We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must 'heat or eat' each winter, harder than those faced by families whose wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years.”

Following today’s published letter, Bishop Peter adds: “Our duty and moral responsibility as a church is the welfare of all people of God, and in particular the most vulnerable.

"The evidence suggests that the welfare system is failing the people it sets out to support.

"Will David Cameron take any notice of our call for urgent action? I don’t know.

"But by speaking out we hope we can make him aware of the day to day reality many families and individuals face, as seen and witnessed by clergy on the ground in the many different communities across the country.”

The letter is part of a wider grassroots campaign called End Hunger Fast, which will continue to work with faith leaders, church groups and food bank volunteers to raise awareness and compel Government to take action.

The campaign will launch a national day of fasting in April with plans to sign up supporters wanting to show sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of hungry Britons.