when told that the peasants had no bread, responded, "Let them eat cake" A phrase that's could be engraved above the entrance to the Department of Work & Pensions.
According to Steve Chalke MBE, founder of Oasis, Stop the Traffik and Faithworks: "Every church should consider a food bank".
The four churches in the village considered it. Then collaborated to make it happen. Now it's up and running, a few of the other local faith communities have expressed an interest in getting involved.
Donations come from the local churches and collections at the local supermarkets. People are extremely generous, with some donating a trolley's worth of shopping in one go!
Word of the food bank's existence is spreading and people have started coming. As well as cup of tea or coffee and a listening ear, they choose a bag of food to help carry them through until next time. The people that come are just like anyone else.
The statistics about food bank use in the UK are sobering. And, behind each and every one of them, is someone fearfully and wonderfully made:
- In 2013, Trussell handed out 913,000 food parcels, up from 347,000 the year before. For some, the food parcel will be the only food they'll have.
- A third were given to repeat visitors but that there has been a 51% rise in clients to established food banks.
- The main cause of food banks visits are benefit payment delays. (83% of referrals were due to benefits sanctions. 30% were due to delays in social security payments. But, according to the Con-Dems, there is no connection between the two things. Of course there isn’t!
- 20% of visits were caused by low income. (People working, but not earning enough to cover their basic out-goings).
And those figures are just Trussell. There are many foodbanks, including ours, that operate independently and not included in those statistics.
I'm proud the churches in the village have chosen to serve in such a practical way. I'm encouraged by the generous gifts of food from the local community. And I am beyond angry that this is necessary. Frankly, every church should also consider laying in a stock of flaming torches and pitchforks to go storm the castle!
Anyone and everyone can end up on benefits and social security is a much needed safety net. Whilst something needs to be done about the small minority exploiting the system, sanctions - the removal of all income apart from housing benefit isn’t it.
This written submission to MPs from the Methodists and Unitarian churches says it all:
"“The use of hunger as a penalty is simply unacceptable. It is extraordinary that the state would choose to punish lateness to appointments or sub-optimal job searching in such a way. The criminal justice system, when [it] fines or imprisons, ensures a person’s basic needs are met – there can be no argument, moral or utilitarian, that justifies a policy of deliberate destitution”
Whilst some don't have enough food, others are chucking it away because they buy too much to use before it spoils.
Living next door to the Food Bank has made us much more conscious about how wrong it is to waste food.
I borrowed Economy Gastronomy from the library in the hope of picking up some more ideas on how to avoid it.
The statistics they quoted for the amount of food thrown away everyday are shocking:
5.1 million whole potatoes
4.4 million whole apples
2.8 million whole tomatoes
7 million whole slices of bread
1.3 million unopened yogurts and yogurt drinks
1.2 million sausages
1 million slices of ham
0.7 million whole eggs
0.7 million whole bars of chocolate and unwrapped sweets
0.3 million unopened meat-based ready meals or takeaways
0.3 million unopened packets of crisps
The book also mentioned 2,900 unopened cans or bottles of lager. Who on earth is throwing away unopened bottles of lager, packets of crisps or chocolate?!
This works on a very similar idea to the much criticized Save With Jamie. Bedrock recipes, tumbledown meals, meal planning, shopping to a list etc.
Both books are firmly aimed at middle-class people with money who want to reduce their food bill. Think frugal rather than austerity.
There's nothing here for the person with £10 a week to spend on food who wants it to go further. For that, try A Girl Called Jack.
I'm slightly puzzled by the way that Oliver got his arse kicked all over social media and Allergra McEvedy and Paul Merrett didn't.
Maybe it was because the first book was touted as a way of making the food you buy go further and the second as, "eat like a king whatever your budget". Maybe it's because one is way more annoying than the other two.
The call to action:
- If you're able to, do something to help your local Food Bank. Donations and helping hands are always welcome.
- If you don't have a local Food Bank, could you help start one?
- If you're throwing away unused food because it's gone off before you'd have a chance to use it, then think about things you can change about your shopping and eating that will help end / reduce that.
- Don't buy into the media's narrative that being poor or unemployed is somehow that person's fault. Never forget there are people behind those statistics.
- There's an election coming up. Your vote can make a difference! Do you want more austerity or something better and fairer?
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