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?