An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Food Banks Deserve More Than Tin Cans

Poverty can be a humiliating and extremely distressing experience especially in the current political climate where those on welfare are stigmatised and demonised almost on a daily basis. It cannot be easy as it is and it must be pretty galling when someone who is titled, Lord Freud, stands up in a bastion of class symbolism, House of Lords, and uses the word 'charitable' to describe the provision of food banks.

Lord Freud who is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions has special responsibility for welfare reform but denies the causal link between the cuts in jobs, benefits and the decreased ability to pay for food which is rising in costs. When asked about food banks in the House he said: "Local provision that reflects the requirements of local areas is absolutely right. Charitable provision is to be admired and supported."

Given that the number of people who use food banks is rising every week, latest estimate puts this at 500,000, it can hardly be called a 'local areas' problem. Such a high statistic would suggest that the provision of food banks is targetting a national problem. While charitable provision is to be 'admired and supported' let us remember that we are talking about something more than present giving at Christmas time to those who cannot afford to give presents. Food banks offer basis sustenance - food. The clue is in the title. To suggest that such a service is to be 'admired' implies that it is an optional service. Those who would go hungry otherwise will disagree that food banks are an optional service.

Taking this a step further if food banks are an essential services does it also mean that the food which we donate ought to consist of the most basic of foods? The whole welfare debate always suggests that beneficiaries ought to be entitled to a bare minimum and no more as a form of punishment. I think that recipients of food parcels must be sick of carting home tinned foods. Do the poor deserve better? Yes, they do. I often add chocolates, biscuits and other treats to the usual staple donations. Just because one is poor in this day and age does not mean that one has to live as if in a Dickensian world. 

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