Food banks have been in the news this week in the UK. This may surprise our US readers but they are relatively new here. A combination of high energy prices (feeding through to higher food prices), the global economic crash and no rise in median incomes for around 10 years has meant that people are struggling to make ends meet. What is surprising is how many working families are using food banks.
Following on from an article earlier in the week in the Guardian on the fact that food banks are booming there are a number of letters bemoaning their existence in today’s print edition. This includes one from a Quaker congregation saying they will not be donating food. Again it may surprise US readers but we like our social security system here. Its under strain and attack but is still relatively intact. It has its faults but is a reasonably efficient way of distributing money to those in need (which is not say it does not require reform and simplification). What concerns people here is a return to the pre-war mix of charities and local government schemes which didn’t work (my parents teeth being one good example of pre NHS dentistry). I have other concerns as well. Giving people food rather than money means they are more limited in their food intake and are not taking responsibility for their diet. In addition this oil based processed food which apart from not being great for our health is not sustainable in the long term.
The biggest food bank in the UK is run by Christians so this makes it a difficult issue for many of us here who are Christians with doubts. Whilst I understand the concerns of the Quakers I have to say if I see a need I should meet it. I’m a reluctant giver though on this one. With still high and increasing oil prices this problem is only going to get worse and I think food banks are here to stay. It would be nice to see some gardening projects as part of the food bank approach though…