Why Food Banks are not the solution

Save the Children announced this week that it has launched its first appeal to support UK children.

The BBC have also made this film about the growing demand on a food bank in Coventry.

A while back I wrote about Live Below the Line which is an initiative by The Global Poverty Project and Christian Aid to highlight what it is like to, well, Live Below the Line. I was so shocked at what they suggested to buy in order to stay within budget, which included a bag of 20 sausages for £1 and bargain sliced white bread at 47p. This prompted me to see exactly how little money I could feed myself on and still have a healthy balanced diet. I called it Not Living Below the Line.

So how are all these connected? Because I do not believe that Food Banks are the solution to food poverty. Learning to cook is.

Arlene Phillips is supporting the Save the Children campaign as she remembers her child hood where her mom have to make an eat or heat choice. I too remember having to eek out the one shilling for the gas meter, and frost on the inside of my bedroom window, but my nan managed to feed our family on what was probably a below the line budget, because she knew how to cook. She stretched meals. The leg of lamb on Sunday re appeared in a number of meals throughout week. And she never, ever threw food away.

It is shocking that in the UK that there are families that are not able to afford decent food. And many are families that are in paid employment, yet are in debt (and debt can happen for many reasons) or don’t earn enough to meet the rent, heat and food bills. Others are are on benefits (and none of use are immune from unemployment). And these families are having to choose to eat or heat. Everyday.

So if a food bank is not a solution, what is?

I love the old saying, ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, give a man a rod and you feed him for life’. My modern version is ‘give a family a tin of soup and you feed them for a day, give a family a bag of lentils, carrots and onions, and cooking lessons, and you feed them for a week’. It’s less catchy of course but more relevant in an inner city, as a rod won’t help you much in Birmingham, even if we have more miles of canals than Venice.

When you consider the amount of food the average supermarkets throws away at the end of each day I have real sympathy for the freegan movement. Some have even suggested that we steal from supermarkets.

And the average family apparently bins £300 of wasted food a year. Mainly I suspect because supermarkets bombard us with BOGOF offers that are designed to make us spend more and buy more than we need.

Surely there is a way that charities and supermarkets can work together to reduce food waste? Can we provide not just food at the food bank but also an opportunity for families who feed their children chicken nuggets because the don’t think they can afford fruit and vegetables. Can we teach the art of cooking and families eating together?

And are food co-operatives, linking up with artisan bakers the way forward? What, I hear you say, artisan bread as a solution to food poverty? Hear me out. I am attending the launch Stirchley Stores who have joined forces with Loaf a community bakery and cookery school. This is I think the real way of tackling food poverty, providing affordable and ethical food and the knowledge how to cook it. The People’s Supermarket is another independent supermarket that is also taking on the big boys. I hope we see more of initiatives like this and less of the gigantic supermarkets that rip the heart out of the high street. Locally a group of moms who were fed up of not being able to buy organic food locally got together and formed their own food co-operative. The Bearwood Pantry sourced a provider a local baker and also buy from a local community led market garden.

So there are better solutions than food banks and I for one will not let up saying this. And we should be lobbying the supermarkets and the government to ensure that no child in the UK goes hungry.

I also thoroughly recommend you read these wonderful posts by two brilliant bloggers! http://dorkymum.wordpress.com/


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This entry was posted in Community, Food and tagged , , , , , , by Travelling Coral. Bookmark the permalink.

About Travelling Coral

I started blogging in 2011 to record some of the highlights of the round the world trip I made with my husband Phil. On the 5 month trip we visited California, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Malaysia and Thailand. We met some fantastic people, saw amazing things and ate some lovely food. Yet while enjoying these new experiences I became acutely aware of the inequality in both first and third world countries. The gap between the rich and the poor on the streets of LA and KL was the same. On my return home, I realised that this inequality existed in the UK. I had to leave the country to see it for what it was. Food banks were opening in every town and city. I read the now famous blog, A Girl Called Jack and got more interested in how food poverty impacts the lives of so many people in my home country. And I got angry. And wanted to do something about it. Now, I work for Smethwick CAN, a charity bringing people together to tackle poverty, increase aspiration, provide opportunity and support the most vulnerable. One of the projects is a foodbank. Food poverty is shocking in any country, yet over a third of edible food still ends up in landfill. No one should go hungry, yet children are going to school without breakfast. Parents are skipping meals to feed their children. Foodbanks are a sticking plaster not a cure for food poverty. So, in addition to working for a charity that is supporting people in crisis, I volunteer for The Real Junk Food Project. They intercept food that would normally be thrown away, and cook it and serve it in a Pay as You Feel Cafe. I am still adjusting to life back at home in Birmingham, England, I have terminal Farsickness. To keep it at bay, I drag my husband and sometimes the son on shorter trips both in the UK and overseas. I now post random stuff that interests me. This includes travel, food and well being. The writing keeps me sane. Long term travelling is my goal.

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