Home Inequality Seriously, What's Wrong With Food Banks?

Seriously, What’s Wrong With Food Banks?



There’s a certain problem with this demand that food banks be made a thing of the past. Which is, well, we want the poor who have no food to have some food. So, we’d like a system whereby the poor who have no food gain some food. Food banks do this – why do we want to stop this happening?

The head of the UK’s biggest food bank network has vowed to put them “out of business” and reverse a trend in which “sticking plaster” food charity handouts are increasingly normalised as a response to growing poverty and destitution.

The comments by Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, came as the charity reported a 47% rise in food parcels given out by its volunteers between April and September – reflecting an explosion in demand for food aid during the pandemic, including from “newly hungry” families who had fallen into hardship.

“We have to find better ways of supporting one another as a society than leaving people to rely on food charity,” said Revie in an interview with the Guardian. “It’s not just about ending food banks, it’s about finding an alternative to the need for mass distribution of charity food in the fifth wealthiest country in the world.”

Sure, there are other systems possible. For example, we could have a system whereby government gives money to poor people. Something we’ve had for over a century now in fact. And food banks – they’re an import of an American technology starting around 2003/4 or so – grew up in the intertices of that system. That is, the government is really pretty bad at handing out free money. No, this is not a new thing because Horrible Tories. It’s because the government of 65 million people is just not good – and never has been nor will be – at dealing with immediate changes in peoples’ circumstances. It has always taken weeks and months for changes in benefit eligibility to filter through into changes in benefits received.

So, after that century of trying we’ve now got, powered by the little platoons, a method of delivering that needed food to those who need food. Why would we want to kill that system?

There is, clearly, also that subsidiary point. What should it be replaced with then? As it can’t be government cahs handouts – see above about the efficiency of that idea – then what else is there?



  1. I have to agree. If it works don’t fix it.

    If the lady and all the rest are bored and no longer wish to operate the food banks, it’d be necessary to do something. But this is not the case at present.

  2. The old 5th richest country in the world bull-shit appears again. By the harridan’s logic Monaco and Bahrain are very poor places, China an exceedingly rich one.

  3. Other arguments for Food Banks are reduction of food waste, reduced costs to supermarkets because organisations take end of life stock away for free and because food is used, not rotted, climate help from reduced methane and CO2 emissions Whats not to like ? Seriously, have the thoroughly secularised replaced Deity with government ? I await the announcement of thanksgiving services to bureaucracy

  4. I seem to remember a bare few years ago supermarkets trumeting the fact they gave surplus food away instead of letting it rot. Now it’s portrayed as evil incarnate.

  5. Food banks are very good for helping people who fall through the cracks in the offical welfare system (which will always be flawed because of its scale and the fact that it’s state run). But they also suffer from a major flaw, which means they should not be used very much. i.e. the cracks mustn’t be allowed to get too big. The flaw is that they (as is always the case for private charity) do not fairly distribute the costs of providing charity. When it comes to any particular type of voluntary charitable contribution, we cn divide people into three groups: the saintly who will contribute regardless, the stingy who will never contribute, and a large middle group who are afraid of being exploited and will contribute only as long as they see it as being fair. Fair means that everyone contributes (adjusted for their means, of course). If the money is raisd through taxes, everything is ok as it’s fair, only the stingy will object and even then many of them see the value of the system. It the money is raised by private contributions, the stingy will not contribute, the saintly will, and the middle group is at risk of noticing the stingy not contributing and consequently refusing to contribute themselves. This leaves the burden entirely on the saintly, which is not only very unfair (effectively being a tax on being nice), but there’s no guarantee that there are enough saintly people to cover the costs.


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