Material World – Food, another banking failure
Figures from the British Retail Consortium show an increase in the cost of food which is impacting the standard of living on many; especially the low paid and those on fixed incomes. Aren’t the majority of the British working class low paid these day?
‘Food inflation accelerated to 15.7% in April, up from 15.0% in March. This is above the 3-month average rate of 15.1%, and is the highest inflation rate in the food category on record.
Fresh Food inflation accelerated in April, to 17.8%, up from 17.0% in March. This is above the 3-month average rate of 17.0% and is the highest inflation rate in the fresh food category on record.
Ambient Food inflation accelerated to 12.9% in April, up from 12.4% in March. This is above the 3-month average rate of 12.5% and is the fastest rate of increase in the ambient food category on record’ (tinyurl.com/26n52k26).
How many food banks are there in the UK? How many people use food banks? How many food parcels are distributed? Do the statistics quoted below surprise you? Have you of necessity been, or are presently, a food bank user? Should those residing in a country with the wealth of the UK be forced to live with food poverty? What is the solution to permanently eradicating food poverty and poverty and inequality completely?
‘In 2022, the Trussell Trust operated 1,400 food banks in the UK. It has been estimated that there are a further 1,172 independent food banks in the UK. This takes the number of food banks operating in the UK to around 2,500.
In March 2023, data from the Food Standard Agency’s ‘Consumer Insight Tracker’ suggested that 13% of participants had used a food bank or food charity at least once in the last month. This was down slightly from the 15% figure of March 2022’ (tinyurl.com/4su6t7ft).
In its end of year report the Trussell Trust reports the following:
‘Close to 3 million emergency food parcels were distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust network in the past 12 months — the most parcels ever distributed by the network in a year. Food banks in the Trussell Trust network saw the highest ever levels of need, even more than during the peak of the pandemic, as more people found their incomes did not cover the cost of essentials like heating and food. Between April 2022 and March 2023, the number of people that used a food bank for the first time was 760,000’ (tinyurl.com/3ervwv9h).
December 2022 was the busiest month on record for food banks in the Trussell Trust network, with a food parcel being distributed every 8 seconds.
The Trussell Trust mission statement says: ‘We know it takes more than food to end hunger. That’s why we launched our five-year strategic plan. We know our goal to end the need for food banks is ambitious, but by working Together for Change, we believe it is achievable. We’re calling on the UK government to ensure Universal Credit covers essential costs such as food, travel and household bills. By acting together with one voice, we are incredibly powerful. We are a movement of thousands of people who believe that no one should have to use a food bank. We need a long-term commitment that the social security system will always protect people from needing a food bank, which means ensuring people can afford the essentials we all need. Together we can call for a more just society where everyone has enough for the essentials.’
Whilst casting no aspersions on those involved with charities, formally or informally, it must be obvious that five year plans, good intentions and a desire to make things better are insufficient. Treating a major trauma injury with a sticking plaster doesn’t work.
Charities, a growth industry
‘There is one industry that continues to grow in Britain today – the Charity Industry. In 1991 there were 98,000 charities registered in Britain, today there are 153,000. The number of paid charity workers is now 569,000. Figures from the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, quoted in the Observer Magazine (4 April ). When one considers the legion of unpaid charity workers that pursue you from door-to-door to shopping centres it can be seen that this is truly a major industry. But if workers are supposed to be getting better off, why does capitalism need more charities?’ (Socialist Standard, May 2004).
‘There were approximately 168,850 registered charities in England and Wales as of 2023. Between 2000 and 2007 the number of charities increased by around 10,000, before the 2008 global recession culled the number of charities by the same number in just two years. Since 2011, the number of charities in England and Wales has recovered to levels seen just prior to the financial crash’ (tinyurl.com/mr93dxpc).
Gov.UK statistics for 2020/2021 (Community Life Survey) provide the following information:
‘62% of respondents (approximately 28 million people in England) have volunteered in any way in the last 12 months, and 41% (approximately 19 million people in England) at least once a month.
63% (approximately 29 million people in England) of respondents said they had given to charitable causes in the last 4 weeks. This is a decrease from 2019/20 where it was measured at 75% and the lowest proportion recorded in the CLS.
Formal volunteering at least once a month in the past 12 months decreased in 2020/21 (17%) from 2019/20 (23%), the lowest that it has been recorded in the CLS.
Informal volunteering at least once a month in the past 12 months increased in 2020/21 (33%) from 2019/20 (28%), the highest that it has been recorded in the CLS’ (tinyurl.com/yavn8ury).
It is a long given argument against real socialism that removing the cash incentive from people would mean that nothing would get done. This has been disproved time and time again. Within capitalism, people not only do unpaid volunteer work, but also all other kinds of things, for no monetary reward, for all kinds of reasons. The human nature is inherently selfish argument is an erroneous one.
To return to the question posed at the beginning: should those residing in a country with the wealth of the UK be forced to live with food poverty? A resounding ‘No’ and it would, or should, be hard to find anyone who would argue with that.
What is the solution to permanently eradicating food poverty and poverty and inequality completely? It’s what we in the Socialist Party have been putting forward for over a hundred years – the replacement of capitalism with a money-free, wage-free, class-free society where goods are produced for use, not profit. Abolish charity. Abolish capitalism. You owe it to yourselves.