Let’s abolish food banks

There are various providers of free or very cheap meals all across the country. They may rely on donations from individuals or companies or they may ‘recycle’ food which would otherwise go to waste. Foodcycle’s answer to the question, what is surplus food is that ‘Surplus food is designated for people to eat but which has ‘no commercial value for the retailer.’ ‘In the UK, an estimated 12 million tonnes of food is wasted each year at all levels from plough to plate whilst 4 million people are affected by food poverty. At least 400,000 tonnes of this food is thrown away at retail level’ (foodcycle.org.uk/who-we-are).

This provider says it wants to ‘make food poverty, loneliness and food waste a thing of the past for every community’. Admirable. Who doesn’t support that? Other similar providers have similar ide-als. The Trussell Trust says ‘…the stark reality is that too many people are unable to stay warm, fed, and dry right now’. Too true unfortunately. No argument there. ‘It doesn’t have to be this way’, Trussell says. Spot on. Ticking all the right boxes definitely.

They all put forward their solutions for minimising the impact of the underlying conditions that lie at the root of food poverty. The underlying cause is capitalism. Do they realise that?

All these various providers, whether large or small, still have to function within the straitjacket of capitalism. They have paid full-time staff, have to pay for their premises, have to pay their utility bills. Those employed by the charities and those who volunteer also have to live according to the norms of a capitalist society. They need money in order to live too. Check any website in the Third Sector. Capitalism means it will always be channelling Bob Geldof at Band Aid. Give us your money! But generally much more politely than Sir Bob.

The issue is, how is poverty in its many forms to be eradicated?

A solution that appeals to many is, vote for a more society-friendly (sic) party. Kick this heartless government out of office, then things will change for the better! It’s not difficult to find examples of the stony attitudes within one of the political parties which is regularly put into the position of running capitalism on behalf of the UK asset-owning class.

The Marie Antoinette of the Tories, ex-Conservative-MP Ann Widdecombe, said a little while ago, ‘Britons don’t have an automatic right to low food prices’, adding that people should simply go without certain items if they are struggling financially. Widdecombe also advised people who cannot afford to pay for some food items, like cheese, to simply stop buying them:

‘Well then you don’t do the cheese sandwich. None of it’s new. We’ve been through this before’, she said. ‘The problem is we’ve been decades now without inflation, we’ve come to regard it as some kind of given right’ (Guardian, 17 May).

Discussing the UK’s cost-of-living crisis on the BBC’s Politics Live show, the former Tory and Brexit Party MEP suggested that anyone claiming unemployment benefits should be made to fill labour shortages by picking fruit.

Under-fire Andrew Bailey told workers to stop asking bosses for unsustainable pay rises – shortly after piling interest rate misery on households. The Bank of England governor battling to bring in-flation under control, said the country ‘can’t continue to have the current level of wage increases’ (tinyurl.com/5a78w28s).

In Peter Tinniswood’s stories about Yorkshire family the Brandons, Carter Brandon’s fiancé Pat opens conversations with, ‘Isn’t the price of sprouts outrageous’? Yes, and so’s the price of nearly everything in the supermarket nowadays. The cost of living has surely superseded the favourite topic of the British, the weather.

The Trussell Trust recently issued a 100-page report called Hunger in the UK. It makes sobering reading. One in seven people in the UK faced hunger in 2022 due to a lack of money, they say. The survey equated this to an estimated 11.3 million people.

Why were people being forced to use food banks? Money. Or rather the lack of it due to living in a capitalist society where the price of nearly everything keeps getting higher and higher.

The United Kingdom has the second largest economy in Europe and the sixth largest economy in the world.

Hunger in the UK: ‘… insufficient income is the fundamental driver for almost all peo-ple forced to use a food bank. The vast majority (86%) of people referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network in mid-2022 have an income so low that they were experiencing destitution when they were supported by the food bank. (They) are further destabilised by a lack of savings and having to cope with arrears and debt’.

The report lists those who are most like to feel the pinch. This includes a high proportion of people renting, ethnic minorities, the disabled, unpaid carers, those living alone, those with dependent children, and single parents.

In the report’s introduction the Chief Executive of the Trust says:

‘That means we know what needs to change if we’re going to build a more just society where everyone has enough money for the essentials. It is clear that we need a social security system which provides protection and dignity for people to cover the costs of their own essentials, such as food and bills’.

‘Because in coming together, and working together, we will build a future where none of us need a food bank, because none of us will allow it’ (tinyurl.com/nhhr7evt). We certainly know what needs to change but we need more than to tinker with a knackered engine. We need to replace it. Whilst a capitalist society continues to receive support from very many, including those globally who suffer badly under that system, sticking plaster solutions are not the answer.

Working together for socialism, we can build a future where none of us will need a food bank ever again. Our solution is one that eradicates the problem once and for all.


Next article: Starmer versus the logic of the market ➤

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