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Food banks as poor relief

(30 Posts)
thatbags Wed 22-Jun-16 07:00:31

An essay about food banks and related issues by Joanna Blythman. The subtitle is "Food banks have become a depressing feature of London life. But does food philanthropy entrench the problems it is trying to solve?"

M0nica Wed 22-Jun-16 16:03:08

This is one of the 'damned if you do and damned if you don't' issues. Like having naval vessels off the north African coast to discourage immigrants and people smugglers but also to save them from a certain death if they do go to sea. Remove the ships and thousands of people drown.

Food Banks are not a cure. What is a cure is proper living wages (as distinct from the capitalised version of those words) and a more efficient welfare system that does not let people fall through the system and be left without an income for weeks on end.

It also means an end of thinking the lower the price of anything the better it is, whether a clothing item imported from abroad and made by an underpaid worker in a sweat shop or food grown on farms in this country where farmers are driven to risk using illegal immigrants and paying below the minumum wage because of the supermarkets relentless cutting of the price they will pay for fresh food sold in their shops.

To a great extent the solution lies with each of us; to pay a fair rate for everything we consume, whether goods or services and try to shop ethically.

Newquay Wed 22-Jun-16 18:53:12

Hear hear Monica!

dramatictessa Wed 22-Jun-16 18:59:11

Absolutely right, M0nica. And foodbanks are not only a feature of London life-we have one here in David Cameron's constituency. I really admire the volunteers running it, but it shouldn't be a necessity.

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 22-Jun-16 19:38:00

Always remember to buy Kellogs cornflakes for the food donation box. Never the store's own.

Grannyknot Wed 22-Jun-16 19:43:50

I skimmed the article. I think the point is that the food banks distribute, together with the goods, recipes that encourage poor eating habits. That recipe for cottage pie made with tinned ingredients and powdered mashed potato sounds revolting.

I fed us last night on a £3 Co-op meal deal - packet of stirfry veg, noodles, and fresh green Thai sauce, plus a tub of fresh mussel meat (£1). Not because I am economising, just because I fancied the mussels (and I was a bit lazy, I usually cut my own stirfry veg). There were leftovers. The man who sells flowers outside our station also sells fruit really cheaply (30p for an apple). So there is healthy cheap food available, if you don't want to eat tinned food. Unless of course you have absolutely no money at all.

But the point is food banks should not "erode human health" - as the article says, that is completely counter-productive. I like the other schemes mentioned, e.g. The Felix Project.

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 22-Jun-16 19:45:15

Yes. But in the meantime food banks fill a gap. hmm And tinned food is better than none.

" ask whether a food supply system that overlooks environmental concerns, treats animals cruelly, pays low wages, generates waste and erodes human health is sustainable."

That's a bit unfair isn't it? I thought the likes of Tesco pay their employees quite well.

M0nica Wed 22-Jun-16 20:04:52

Many of those using Food Banks have no money at all, they are in employment, zero hours and not full time or the DSE has made a mix up with their benefits and they are, quite literally, pennyless.

I think the concerns about the quality of the food given out by food banks misses the point. Food Banks give three days supply of food to families in a crisis. They do not work like a soup kitchen feeding people every day, every week. I think there is a limit to how many times a month a family can be helped by the Food Bank. So if for three or six days a month a family is eating out of tins, so what? I am sure most of us have done something similar in our time.

As for Tesco, they may seem to pay well but most of their workers are on zero hours contracts and no matter how (relatively) good their hourly rate, if you work 25 hours one week, 16 the next and then 0 the next, if that is the main family wage you are still going to be struggling and sometimes need the the help a Food Bank can offer.

Stansgran Wed 22-Jun-16 20:50:53

Jingle Why Kellogs not own brand? Mr Kellogg was a nasty piece of work and I try not to buy his stuff.
Feeling a bit uncomfortable as DH shopped at Tesco this pm and bought in the reduced section about 3lbs of outdoor reared pork leg for £1.68 . I think he should have left it for someone else but he does love the reduced section. I said well done but....

Deedaa Wed 22-Jun-16 21:19:45

Meals made with tinned foods may not be ideal, but many people don't have the means to cook fresh food. Think of those in overcrowded rented flats or B&Bs. Even MIL had limited cooking options by the time she went into a home. Her oven had packed up so she alternated between the microwave and a gas ring. Her recipe involving tinned spaghetti was particularly repulsive but she seemed to enjoy it.

Grannyknot Wed 22-Jun-16 21:55:25

If people don't have the means to cook fresh food, are they eating it cold out if the tins? I'd rather eat raw uncooked veg in that case - much healthier.

I didn't realise that food banks gave 3 days of food supply to families in crisis only.

Grannyknot Wed 22-Jun-16 21:55:42

Of not if.

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 22-Jun-16 22:44:11

Stansgran only because it says in the article that supermarkets have these collecting boxes partly because it boosts the sale of their economy own brand ranges. In other words, not really motivated by altruism.

grannyactivist Wed 22-Jun-16 22:48:14

Thanks bags - an interesting read and I heartily concur with the writer's conclusion: Food poverty is essentially a money problem, not a food problem. When you haven’t got the wherewithal to fill your larder or your stomach, the answer isn’t a voucher for a can of soup, sliced white bread that’s past its best-before date and a pack of broken custard creams. It’s a decent living wage and a rent you can afford.

I'm currently supporting someone who has had no income since he was found 'fit to work' in January. He has a learning disability and having had his money stopped following his assessment he had no idea what to do, so literally was going without food to eke out his savings for as long as possible. He has now (with a great deal of help) applied for lower rate ESA and is appealing the 'fit for work' decision (again with help - this time from a CAB expert) - in the meantime he gets a weekly supply from the local food bank and has hot meals provided by the community cafe we work with.

Our food bank and the community cafe do amazing work, but the former only has enough volunteers to open two afternoons a week. It's therefore impractical to accept fresh food (except cakes which are made on the day by a lovely volunteer) and so tinned food is inevitably what's on offer. During the long summer holiday the volunteers double their efforts and make up food hampers for all those families where children would normally receive free school meals.

Anniebach Wed 22-Jun-16 23:00:13

If one is out of money, possibly out of work, or on zero hours contract a tin of food is more than welcome , and when in despair studying healthy recipes isn't top of priorities

grannyactivist Wed 22-Jun-16 23:09:17

Grannyknot - most Food Banks use a voucher system to give clients just three days worth of food. Each foodbank works with different frontline professionals/agencies, such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, the Citizens Advice etc, who make referrals to the Food bank. The Trussell Trust has a general rule that if people come to a foodbank more than three times in six months their system automatically flags this with a referral back to the initial professional or agency.

Other Food banks have their own rules about how much/how often clients can be helped, but all exercise limitations. All the Food banks I know of use a referral or voucher system of some sort.

Grannyknot Thu 23-Jun-16 07:59:45

ga that's interesting thanks. I wish there was a way of getting less processed food to the recipients.

anniebach I know what despair feels like. Peace and love.

whitewave Thu 23-Jun-16 08:01:02

It is disgusting and disgraceful that we are talking about this.

Nonnie1 Thu 23-Jun-16 10:20:08

I don't like the idea of food banks. They are open to abuse.
It shows the state of our society when places like this have to be created to help those who are the most vulnerable, and I also dislike the idea of supermarkets collecting the food.
They should be giving that food to the food bank directly. They all make enough money without asking us to pay for it.

pensionpat Thu 23-Jun-16 12:18:43

At the food bank where I volunteer Tesco are very supportive. In addition to a collection point they make a financial contribution to food bank, based on the weight of the donated food. Don't know if this is national policy.

Charleygirl Thu 23-Jun-16 15:10:16

My local supermarket is Waitrose and a couple of days ago I glanced into the food bin and there were tins of kitten food and "fresh" bread reduced because it was to be eaten that day. Little point adding the latter because I am sure that it would have been thrown out.

I have thought when visiting other supermarkets that it would be easier to allow a family to choose what they want up to a certain amount eg £50 and I would pay for it but it is finding that elusive family.

Nonnie1 Thu 23-Jun-16 17:05:31

I have donated things, but have heard horror stories about people arriving in taxis to collect their food. If they can afford a taxi, they can afford to shop. I couldn't afford a taxi for my shopping, and I'm not in need.

i don't donate now. I have other favourite charities which ease my conscience

Ana Thu 23-Jun-16 17:08:14

I don't think a food parcel contains anything like £50 worth of groceries. And they can only claim so many times a year (different rules in various LAs).

Elegran Thu 23-Jun-16 17:21:49

We have been round the taxi stories on another thread. Someone said that it could well have been a volunteer collecting food to take to several people who couldn't get out for it - or perhaps several people who didn't own a car and clubbed together to get a taxi home. No need to always think the worst of people.

Anniebach Thu 23-Jun-16 17:22:29

And why did some use a taxi ? Did they not live on a regular bus route, did they share a taxi because it was cheaper than a bus if cost shared? did they have a disability and their allowance had been taken from them? are they on a low rate of mobility which means they couldn't afford a car of their own?