Regarding your article (‘Why should anyone be hungry when there’s food that can be given away?’ The heroes feeding their neighbours, 23 May), every week, I drive a van and deliver food for a food bank. To some extent I think what I do is wrong. Beneficiaries of food banks are not only those who may get a week’s supply of food. First and foremost, food banks help a government without empathy, without a plan and without competence. Food banks support a government that works against its own people.
Supermarkets that have customers contributing to donation boxes benefit from additional sales. They also benefit as they get rid of some of their food items that are approaching the sell-by date, and which they would otherwise dump.
Because a small number of people buy for others, the fiction of a functioning social welfare system continues to exist.
Solidarity is a good thing and a society cannot function without it. Real solidarity, however, would have everybody in society contributing their fair share through taxes or social welfare payments that would allow others a dignified way of staying alive. Fourteen million people allegedly being hungry, and many of them having to queue up publicly just for their food, is a picture that does not appear to fit one of the largest economies in the world.
Hunger is now widespread in the UK. Both adults, many of whom are in full-time employment, and children are affected. It is no longer only those who are unemployed or on benefits who suffer from it.
The solution is not charity, nor the goodwill of willing volunteers who support food banks and free food outlets. The solution should be the state’s involvement – the government. But it needs the political will and the desire to improve the situation.
The government has in the past intervened to enable the finance and necessary action to prevent hunger, such as rationing and free school milk. Other previous initiatives can be examined and, if needs be, modified to suit the current circumstances.
It is not just about food, it is also about ensuring adequate, secure jobs with appropriate pay. It is about making sure necessary expenses, such as housing, heating, clothing etc, are within the means of normal household finances.
We should not forget that people also need the means to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves.
As we approach another school half-term, the shameful scandal of food poverty is once again in danger of sliding under the news radar. With charities reporting that they are gearing up to feed thousands of additional children next week, as schools will not be feeding them, there is little apparent public or media interest.
The UK is still among the richest countries in the world. It introduced an expanded welfare state in the 1940s (as did the Nordic countries), it is a democracy, and as such its rulers govern by the will of and for its people.
Yet this country is either unable or unwilling to feed its children, and no one – not the general populace, nor the media, nor the government – seems to be up in arms about this disgraceful situation. It is not good enough, nor can it be acceptable, that thousands of hungry children are reliant on a nationwide network of charities, donors and volunteers for their food.
Politicians need to admit and accept that, as our elected leaders, they have the absolute responsibility to ensure that our people are fed, as a right. No ifs, no buts – this is not a party political issue, this is a matter of politicians’ duty, of their decency, their humanity and their love and care for their neighbour.
Ensuring that our population is fed is not a matter for charity – it is a responsibility and duty of government.
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