Patrick Butler does just that:
There was relatively little coverage of the Trussell Trust’s annual figures last week, at least compared to past years. Perhaps the public, once outraged, is now resigned to foodbanks, like the poor, being always with us.
It’s just not news. Maybe that’s the reason?
A mere 2% rise in referrals to food banks may sound inconsequential, especially after the double-digit year-on-year increases of recent times. But it shows the volume of charity food given out – enough to feed more than 1.1m people – is now doggedly entrenched, even in a supposedly improving economy and healthy jobs market.
Well, yes. Give out ‘free’ food, certain people will take advantage of it. That’s hardly a surprise.
The state appears now structurally dependent on food banks – not just Trussell ones, but thousands of other charity outlets too – to mitigate the effects of welfare cuts, low wages, insecure work and high rents.
That, perhaps, is the story: government welfare policy can no longer stand on its own two feet, but is dependent on food bank handouts.
Hurrah! The government’s out of the ‘feeding the lazy’ business! Surely a call to rejoice?
If food bank data tells us something about the decline of the state, however, it is less good as a measure of food insecurity.
As the Labour MP Frank Field points out, we know too many people go hungry – countless accounts vividly reveal the misery of people “going without,” being unsure where the next meal is coming from, or relying on cheap, processed foods – but we don’t know how many.
So that’s ‘not being able to afford food’ and ‘eating the wrong sort of food’..? Wow, talk about hedging your bets…
A recent report, drawn up by a group of academics, thinktanks and charities grouped under the UK Food Poverty Alliance banner … argues that the available UK data on food insecurity, both qualitative and quantitative, “does not meet the requirement for ‘hard’ evidence that many policymakers and campaigners say is necessary to lever policy change.”
It points out that both Canada and the US routinely collect robust data on how far households can meet their basic food needs (in the US in 2014, 48m households, or 14%, were food insecure). The Canadian findings show how food insecurity links to obesity, diabetes and mental illness, as well as rising healthcare costs. The UK government, it concludes, should do the same.
In order to provide lots of future employment opportunities for the people suggesting it?
The presence of food banks in the UK is an outrage; so too is the existence of food insecurity.
Oh, what isn’t an ‘outrage’ these days? The word’s becoming as meaningless as ‘racism’ and ‘sexism’…