We wrote in an earlier blog about relative food poverty, the place where hidden hunger takes hold, the place where people do their best to cope, asking friends and family for short term help or often going without to cope or worse still slipping into the pernicious world of localised debt and all the sharks that circle that murky activity. Imagine if you can (and most who people who advise in these situations, can’t) the stress having to go without and also watching your children suffer as a consequence.
One article, published by New Statesman last October, highlighted the extreme measures that those in poverty had resorted to in order to acquire money as a consequence of the benefit reform. At present there are nearly 50 people on the crowdfunding website who have used the words ‘Universal Credit’ in their plea. The article goes on;-
‘In February, Heather’s home had a power cut,’ one claimants story reads, ‘As her severely asthmatic nine-year-old son requires a plugged-in nebuliser to help his breathing, Heather called an ambulance. “By 10pm my baby was sedated and being treated intravenously in intensive care,” Heather wrote on her crowdfunding page. As she was with her son in the hospital, she then missed her Jobcentre appointment. In response, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) sanctioned her, meaning she received no UC for two months.’
This is amounts to “digital begging” – good people being forced to promote their struggle to strangers in the hope that they will feel sorry enough to donate to their cause – a path crowdfunding was never intended for. A path that will be short lived as many more try the same route and or until someone cheats the digital begging system and the Mail, Sun or Telegraph get hold of the story, and we know they will be watching/waiting. It’s not going to end well and all the time desperate, good people remain and will remain the victims whichever way this part of the food poverty story plays out.
The Statesman article isn’t an atypical illustration in the media spike that has soared since the rollout of Universal Credit – each day comes a new indication of the reality that claimants face, and as the rollout continues these realities are bleak with no upside.
Thousands like Heather will turn to food banks as the welfare reform continues & unmanageable standards fail to be met. Thousands more stay silently hungry until they can afford to eat; the ‘hidden hungry’, the hungry remaining unseen and unaccounted for by the national food poverty figures gathered by independent researchers & campaigners; figures/data still, unoccupied by any national government study/statistics.
It is incumbent of us all to put pressure on our local MP’s and instruct them to challenge hunger of all kinds. If they are Conservative and in Government be relentless in the challenge laid upon them about the life-threatening crisis their callous support for the welfare bill has caused. And if they are Labour and in opposition be as relentless in challenging them to establish an alternative model, that once in Government will reform benefits and stamp out the poor food practice that holds together the current food aid system. Only then will things change and only then will good people who deserve better get what they deserve.
Our Food Poverty Track Record:-
Published a Position statement, published a report
Share Your Lunch Campaign + Share “Holiday Hunger” Campaign
30,000 free fresh meals distributed (since 2016)
Now it’s time to move on and pass the baton on – for us making sure Good Food Areas sticks is now our priority; making sure hungry people get fed well every day in every area we work.
We’ll continue to observe the spaces filled by food banks and recycled food, we hope the change we’ve so long campaigned for will appear in these two areas soon.
If you have supported the work we do, thank you. If you have been a critic of ours then please ask yourself the question, why would you not want to feed people good, fresh food? It’s time we stop designing services that feed people, but to design a service that feeds people well.