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Friday, 17 July 2015

Is Using Food Banks a Sign of Real Poverty?

Food bank

Food banks are very much in the news in Britain, with figures showing that over one million people in the country are using them, while organisations and campaigners ask for more funds for the purpose.

To cater for the persons using them, lots of food banks are all over the UK, run by churches and voluntary groups, providing food for people who are said to struggle to make ends meet.

After all the indigestion (pun unintended) of talk about food banks during the last campaign for the election of the UK Parliament in May, I wished to find out more about these monsters, the symbol of Conservative "austerity" policy.

I may seem unkind, but my prediction was that food banks would be frequented by fat people who wanted to save their money to spend it on fags and booze, and sometimes drugs.

After all, the food problem that most people - and especially those belonging to lower social classes - have is a problem of eating too much, not too little.

Wasn't I right!

Most photos of food banks only show those who work for them and not the people who use them, and the reason for this is that, when you do see the food bank clients, many look clearly fat, and even obese.

Ah, but that demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that they are poor, as fatness and obesity are, in our society, the hallmark of poverty.

Columnist Brendan O'Neill wrote a rather scathing article on the subject some time ago, that created controversy. Entitled "What's fuelling the food-bank frenzy? The hunger for publicity of anti-poverty activists", it started:
Something about the food-bank frenzy doesn't add up. Reading the Dickens-tinged coverage of food banks, of which there are now 400, you could be forgiven for thinking that Britain has done a timewarp back to the Victorian era of emaciated urchins begging for scraps of bread on foggy bridges. Britons are "hungrier than ever", says the Independent. "Starving Britain", says one newspaper headline. There is clearly enormous "destitution, hardship and hunger" in Britain, says Oxfam. Even the International Red Cross has got involved, promising to help tackle Britain's "food poverty". What next – a charity single along the lines of "Do They Know It's Christmas?", only aimed at getting emergency food to allegedly starving Brits rather than actually starving Africans?
We're going back in time to Dickens and in space to starving Africa. But we still have an obesity crisis, especially among the "poor".

What kind of poor can they be, if they have too much food? Enter the "new poor", who have too much rather than too little.

Yes, goes the answer, but it's not quantity but quality that makes poverty these days. So, the "poor" eat the wrong stuff.

Why not open "healthy food banks", then? That's an idea. For, you see, it's difficult to believe that large numbers of people in Britain are actually starving because unable to spare 25p (pence, pennies) for a can of baked beans and 40p for a loaf of sliced bread from Tesco or other supermarket chains.

In fact for a long time the complaint has been that food was too cheap. Food poverty = inability to have a healthy diet.

The problem here, which creates so much confusion, is semantic: the word "poverty" has been redefined for ideological and political reasons and that makes the term almost useless, at least in the affluent Western world.

The real meaning of the word "poverty", in the genuine sense of not having what one objectively needs, has now been restricted to the expression "absolute poverty", while "relative poverty" is what is applied to people who generally are not poor at all, but are poor only compared to the society's average. Therefore, if they live in a rich society, it simply means that they are not as wealthy as they would like to be, not enough to "keep up with the Joneses".


  1. Have you properly researched this? As in more than one visit to one food bank?!

  2. To be fair, the reason poor people are sometimes fat is that they have a low quality diet that does not satisfy their hunger cravings owing to the lack of appropriate nutrients, hence they overeat fat and carbohydrates.

  3. Enza i agree with most of your article. These food banks are being exploited both by many users and for political propaganda. As i now live in Croatia do not see much UK tv have there any been any good TV reports with interviews with users ect.
    I used to live in Croydon UK and there where people mostly men who had genuine mental health issues and where seeking food. Having been dumped from prison or having their benefits stopped or waiting months for claim to be processed.Black people often gave to them, I usually refused money but got them food and drink from Greggs the Baker or subway.The might not have been starving in the extreme sense but where plainly hungery.
    Maybe you could make a youtube video of people at your n/earest food bank .
    I also read and comment on Author had similar article on this see /archives-11595 archives-11581 some of his readers put alternative views .