Sunday, 6 July 2014

Food Banks: Why I Don't Like Them But Donate To Them Anyway

One-in-five parents in Britain skips meals in order to feed their children, with many relying so heavily on schools and charities to feed their children that kids could go hungry in the school holidays, new research suggests. - by , Huffington Post 

Well I thought the economy was supposed to be improving. I thought we had left France behind and were closing the gap with Germany. And I thought that being part of G7 means we are a wealthy nation. Well if that's true, why are a fifth of parents in the UK relying on charities to feed their children?

What food banks are, ostensibly

Food banks are charities working with local authorities, social services, other charities, supermarkets, and volunteers, that provide food to needy people.

Care professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, Citizens Advice Bureau staff, welfare officers, the police and proabation officers amongst others identify people in crisis and issue them with a foodbank voucher...
...Foodbank clients bring their voucher to a foodbank centre where it can be exchanged for three days' supply of emergency food. Volunteers meet clients over a cup of tea and are able to signpost people to agencies able to solve the longer-term problem.
- Salford Central Food Bank

They're not supposed to be a long term solution and, despite the protestations of UKIP supporter Sue McDonald on Twitter, they're not available to just anyone, you have to be referred. We'll take a closer look at that exchange in a bit.

What they are, actually

I have the same problem with food banks that I have with Mincome/citizens' income, or variants thereof: they're subsidizing workers so employers aren't obliged to raise wages. Companies should stand or fall on the value they bring to the market, not because they receive subsidies or benefits from the government. I don't approve of corporate welfare, and I don't approve of giving taxpayers' money to people who don't need it. A citizens income for all British citizens would include the greedy fatcats who got us into this mess. A simplified, unified benefits system is in place, and it's driving people to food banks. We need them, but in a wealthy country with a growing economy, we shouldn't.

Libertarian stance:

Okay, let's take a closer look at UKIP supporter Sue McDonald's comments, shall we? UKIP are basically libertarian, and libertarian policies have created the need for food banks, which is why I bash them.

Now take a look at the Libertarian platform on poverty:

The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals. We believe members of society will become more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in this realm.

Sue McDonald has not become more charitable as government reduces its support for the poor. In fact, in a society in which we are pitted against each other in a race to the bottom while economists crow about growth, you may find that scapegoating increases and the poor end up in situations like this:

right here in Manchester. Here's my response:

Hey, they're only trying to help. But it's not solving the problem.

My stance:

Where the market has been locked up, the government needs to step in, creating the competition that is missing. In the case of the homeless, they don't have access to the market because they don't have enough money to pay for housing. Social housing doesn't have to be expensive. Student-type accommodation with shared facilities will do them. Training courses, internships, and volunteering would provide the experience they need to find work and assisted placements would guarantee jobs. An indoor market with stalls where they can sell things would mop up the hard-to-place clients. Dignity restored, re-admittance to society achieved.

Accommodation is always the biggest expense, followed by fuel, bills and food. These costs don't drop and free market economics doesn't take that into account. That's why the middle-out solution is the better one. It'd enable us to afford to pay for our own housing, etc. Heck, if Our Glorious Leaders finally did something about hoarding in the housing market, we might even be able to afford to get a mortgage instead of hoping to get a council or housing association flat.

Why I donate to them anyway

My few cans of beans and tomatoes isn't much, but along with the other items donated by other people, it all adds up. Every can helps. And until such time as Our Glorious Leaders implement middle-out economic policies that provide us with a living wage, we're going to need food banks. I can't think of a good enough reason to let families go hungry in the hope of provoking a riot. Can you?

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