This blog is a polemic and rightly so. There needs to be a counter-fact-based-narrative to the misleading stories put out by Trussell and FareShare. Stories often supported by some academics, food aid alliances, the press, food think-tanks – the list is growing. Stories that are kidding the public that hunger in this country is being dealt with – it’s not
Much of the work we do, is to prove the difference good food makes to someone’s life if they are hungry. And, a further tranche of time is spent campaigning to change the current food aid system. A system that keeps the majority of hungry people hungry but claims otherwise. It is system that has become an industry and as an industry, it is much more concerned about its own growth than feeding people well.
It is a very resilient person that can cope enough to get themselves out of a crisis, if they are hungry. Hunger saps a persons’ energy, confidence and motivation. Moreover, hunger prevents a person from thinking beyond where the next meal will come from. And in the UK today, we have a Government and a food aid system that expect hungry vulnerable people to cope and thrive on a diet of ultra-processed, random food or simply, go without.
A substantial amount of what is offered as food aid is controlled by the overtone of religion. Sometimes, within the mix of church/charity and of course the work of Trussell Trust where prayer is often present before any food is dispensed. True faith-based approaches should always carry the narrative of fairness, care and most definitely love. Love is, of course, a provocative word and is open to wide interpretation by those who are charged with providing any kind of support service. Yet, should this ever be the case? Surely love within a crisis-service context means providing the best service possible – one that loves everyone, as we all would want to be loved.
A theologian said “we are not called by god to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love” – And it is extraordinary love that is missing from food-aid. No doubt most food-aiders care, and no doubt the same people want to offer support, but if the backdrop is a food service so poor people can suffer serious health consequences when eating too much of it – extraordinary love is absent.
People in food poverty require options. The same options are available to everyone else who find themselves on better terms. When food aid is required, it is incumbent on those who provide services of support, to make sure the food services pass the ‘extraordinary’ test. Unfortunately, 10 years into the current food aid model, the food service is far from standing up to that test. In fact, the food is awful and the message it conveys to those who are hungry is not at all about fairness or care. So, let’s be clear, there is no reason whatsoever hungry people should have to eat ultra-processed donated/cast off/awful/crap food, and there is certainly no reason why any hungry person should receive crap food, except of course, in the minds of those who design of the food aid sector = FACT.
Anyone involved in food aid who feeds hungry people the worst food a modern society can produce is in contempt of their duties. Food poverty is about the lack of food and nothing else. The Trussell Trust and others such as IFAN, like to claim food poverty is not about food, but about income. Of course, lack of income is the driver, but one leads to the other and when the other is reached, the only thing that matters is the supply of good food.
Good food options are available for every hungry person, but Trussell Trust, FareShare, IFAN, Church Action against Poverty, to name a few, are all trying to kid a public that crap food is the best route to tackling hunger, whilst they all operate and remain noisy about benefits. Hunger has given most of them a fundraising potential beyond their wildest dreams, and some a national platform. They all operate behind the distribution of crap food – food so crap that no one working for these organisations would eat it themselves. We have charities, creating and protecting a model that pushes out foodstuff that is either somebody else’s leftovers and or nothing more than ultra-processed killer foods. And remember many in this group claim this food is nutritious.
It is a mainly white, middle class body of people, pushing their distorted charity/ideological make up onto working class people who require the opposite. It’s also a body of people associated with food think-tanks who are willing to reinforce the worst food habits onto the most vulnerable, in order to sit around tables to inform their next ‘think-pieces’ – its offensive! This group is dangerous, because sitting in London (as most do) they are controlling the political/poverty narrative and without doubt keeping people hungry.
These and others make up the Food-Poverty-Porn-Stars – read on…
If we had a £ for every time we were asked to not challenge or comment about food aid because ‘a lot of good people are working hard to help others’, we would have enough to stop food poverty in its tracks. Therefore, let’s qualify our position. We are not criticising anyone for their hard work or energy, these endeavours have stopped many from falling through the poverty cracks. We are questioning whether all this hard-food-aid-work is the right work to support people who are hungry? And, we are most certainly questioning the complicity of the many who have adopted themselves into the cause of food aid, in order to further their own interests. A place where, for example, academics want to be and where food think-tanks think they have the best chance to inform policy – always looking ahead, never dealing with today.
Academics/think-tanks predict tomorrow based on yesterday and policy is ALWAYS about jam tomorrow and often their judgement is swayed by who helps them with their information – think the various Trussell/FareShare academic research projects.
HUNGER IS ALL ABOUT TODAY – this blog is about HUNGER TODAY and the impact of the poverty-porn-stars and how they keep hungry people – HUNGRY!
These porn-stars are:
Academics: Who have written papers, PHD’s or worse still, books about food banks and food aid but have stayed silent on the quality of the food.
Food-think-tanks or networks: The liberal-jam tomorrow policy wonks, sitting around the various food aid alliances, staying publicly silent on the crap food hungry people have to eat, whilst always commenting on the good food systems they hope to create for themselves and the rest of us who have money to spend.
Every church entity that supports the distribution of ultra-processed food as the only community food option.
The media: Who write and report regularly on the subject, but say nothing about the quality of the food, in fear of upsetting their news source – Trussell/FareShare.
And of course…Trussell Trust and FareShare: Charities, who for example, take £20m from ASDA and use it to strengthen their management teams, marketing and logistics and then claim they want to ‘put themselves out of business’ = SURE!
To use the words of someone else – they have all served to ‘normalise the abnormal’ and the abnormal is to the detriment of hungry people and society as a whole.
NORMALISING THE ABNORMAL:
Let’s look at the abnormal and how the food aid industry turns it into the normal they want the public to believe.
The 3 images below are:
A claim, via letter, made by a Trussell Food Bank in a Tesco store.
A claim made by the same Tesco store and;
The food bank basket that was situated right under the above claims.
Let’s unpick this nonsense, which sets out to falsely convince a public that hunger is being handled.
Firstly, food banks do not give out meals, they dole out random products – see the basket and together let’s try and create a family meal or two.
Processed hotdogs and spaghetti – what could be better?
Or, tinned spaghetti on top of boiled spaghetti – which is a recommended Trussell Food bank meal by the way (click here). Or trying for one more;
Just plain old tinned chicken soup with maybe crisps afterwards…Mmmm, lovely, and every meal so nutritious (more of this later).
Now let’s do the maths…according to the letter:
= 64,000 meals from 22,613kg of goods including toiletries. So .35kg of random stuff including toiletries, creates a meal eh – By whose measurement? = Trussell and FareShare and constantly supported by the food aid alliances.
Remember over 50% of everything given out by Trussell and FareShare is never eaten or returns to landfill. This meal claim is nothing more than inflated nonsense, set up to kid the public and funders alike that food aid is doing something substantial – it’s not, it’s a lie. But point this out to the food aid sector and they rally behind indignant behaviour, aghast that anyone dare be critical of their well-meaning charity stuff.
These indignant food-aid-porn-stars do all they can to protect their lie and to deflect, roll out the now nothing more than trite line… ‘we should never need food banks in a society like ours’ – Well here is the news…we do and this food aid scam is keeping people hungry, creating a food-underclass and conditioning the public that crap food is ok for those who have less than most of us.
NEED and US:
We estimate the hunger problem is more than 4x the suggested published figure – How do we know this?
Unlike most of the food-aid-porn-stars who franchise and intrude into peoples’ lives or prepare a piece of research for a PHD or maybe write a book that has put them in the middle of poverty for a year or so, we have been on the frontline of poverty for 13 years; talking food, teaching food, feeding food, creating a good food model that has been built from peoples’ struggle. We have academics on our Board, we work with dietitians, we have very skilful chefs on staff, and we have staff who themselves have been hungry and spent years unemployed – a fact that matters. We don’t just talk hunger, we have lived hunger and we are every-single-day, feeding hunger.
CAMPAIGNING or PROTEST:
A campaign alerts and sometimes promotes. A protest takes direct action. We mix both, but now mainly focus on protest. Our reasons are;
Food aid provided by the third and private sectors is now as responsible as the Government, for the entrenched position of hunger.
Food poverty is already institutionalised, though food aid groups like to claim otherwise.
The food aid narrative is dominated by white, middle class bodies that reside in the South of England and have no representation from the areas we serve.
Many Faith groups acknowledge that food banks are not the answer, yet they continue to provide food banks as the only option. And;
They all countenance feeding people crap food in the name of charity.
This is the furtive territory of the food-poverty-porn-stars – so let’s get onto to them.
CHARITY and the PORN-STARS:
Take more than a cursory glance at the food aid industry and it’s all Trussell Trust this, FareShare that, community group this, church groups that – it’s charity and nothing more. It has its short-term place but medium term and beyond, it’s unstable and full of free labour. Free labour that has allowed Trussell and FareShare to grow – not for them, the employment of local people who are struggling. Instead they favour free local volunteering schemes and their employment is saved for well-paid central management structures.
All this charity and no evidence anywhere that it makes any long-term difference. In fact, medium/long term charity does nothing more than create dependency – local, regional and national dependency.
It’s the place where the porn-stars set up residency, playing charity, promoting charity, propagating charity.
Charity is a problem because it is a right-wing construct designed to keep social problems calmer. It has its roots and tentacles in the thought process of there being a deserving poor. It’s also being re-used by those in the various food-aid alliances as the BIG fundraiser/recruiter. 10 years ago, the church was struggling for their community message and there was no such mention of the BIG charities, such as Trussell or FareShare. Now, the church has a message and Trussell and FareShare have almost become household names by protecting their crap-food hunger model and often lying about the quality of the same food.
Let’s not forget 80% of hungry people turn their back on food banks, even though the food is free – a fact that would be seen as failure in any other service environment, but in the charitable food aid world it is protected, even promoted as success. Why? Well it’s simple…academics require their research base and as already noted, too many charities are wedded to the fundraising that hunger now brings them – it has become too big a gravy train to derail.
PORN-STARS as ENFORCERS:
Recently, we learnt a young boy lost his sight and hearing because of his diet of pringles, sausages, white bread etc = All ultra-processed food and all foods regularly found in food banks. However, once inside food banks, the same food is transformed, and it becomes so good the porn-star-enforcers tell hungry people the same food is ‘nutritionally balanced’
Every UK public health body and most of the media point us all (who have choices) away from contact with ultra-processed food and all those tinned meat/high sugar/crap noodle/pringle/crisp products known to kill us over time. A stance you would hope the food aid sector would re-enforce as they set themselves up to ‘feed’ the most vulnerable amongst us. Unfortunately, as the porn-star re-ENFORCERS they see things differently.
They choose to twist the public health message to suit and render food that can make a person go blind, nutritious. Here is an excerpt from the current Trussell Trust website… “people can receive a food bank parcel of three days ‘nutritionally balanced’, non-perishable food from their local food bank.”
Or compare this, taken from a Harvard study… “Ultra-processed foods often have fewer nutrients than unprocessed foods, and they contain higher amounts of sugar, salt, saturated fat, and food additives, all of which are associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases.”
Here we have – Trussell saying their food is nutritious and instruct their food banks to tell vulnerable people the same. Whilst a world-renowned research body says exactly the opposite. As you ponder your truth about who is right here, take another look at the Tesco food bank collection image we included earlier – all ultra-processed crap food. And if you think it is nutritious – post your arguments against what we are claiming here. If, however, you, like us, think the food is nothing more than crap, do some or all of the following.
Stop donating ultra-processed food to food banks – it is making the problem worse.
Get closer to the issues and locally think about improving your local food bank approach.
Write to your MP about the good food change that needs to happen.
Work with bodies like us to create larger scale change – otherwise;
The food-poverty-porn-star-enforcers, brazen in their deceit of a key public health messages, will continue uninterrupted and most hungry people will remain hungry.
INDIGNANT PORN-STARS actors:
Everything we do or write about we can qualify – we get our facts right. If we comment, we comment using well researched facts and the basis of our own practice. However, when our comments venture close to a porn-star or two, they become the most indignant bunch, sat high on some sort of moral cloud they have no right to sit on, because frankly, the facts are never on their side.
We never discuss anything outside of hunger and good food. We are not generalists like so many of the porn-stars and of course we are a professional food organisation. We have an expertise in food standards and food production. Yet the indignant bunch, most of whom have no food expertise whatsoever, believe they know better, based on what exactly? Nothing but their indignance. And all the time people are starving.
These affronted porn-star-actors often present themselves as radical campaigners, often socialist in their politic. Yet their provision of crap food is a further austerity measure pushed out onto vulnerable people. This means, similar to charity, it is right-wing in construct. Not that this matters, to any of the faux lefties. As porn-star-actors they love their walk-on actor parts, sitting around discussing/writing about the poverty they have never experienced, or dreaming up condescending terms like experts by experience. For them, their motives are sound, because they mean well and should be thanked for their ‘meaning’ – it is emotive/disingenuous claptrap. If the work is good, then fine get on with it. But if the work knowingly keeps people hungry by feeding people crap food, it is right-wing and has no place in any service delivering social justice, and neither does anyone who favours supporting it.
PORN-STARS in ALLIANCE:
Let’s focus on the End Hunger Alliance and to do so, take look at the membership in the image below.
It is a body that is never publicly critical of the crap food Trussell Trust pushes out or Fareshare’s food distribution. This Alliance body also sanctions the push out of the ‘Pantry’ model. A model no more than food bank food being sold to people under the pretence that they are part of some sort of community membership – when it is nothing more than a 2nd class, crap-food scam allowing Fareshare to sell on the random-crap-food it has be given for free.
Now take a look at the strapline that End Hunger operates behind…Everybody should have access to good food etc – the good food, and the good food process they are talking up as ‘good’ is captured in the earlier images. What is striking, is that every organisation named below have clearly changed their opinions on what constitutes good food and in doing so – creating a two-tier food system, how convenient!
Food bank food and the stuff Fareshare distributes is not good food, far from it. It is food almost entirely made up of random, ultra-processed cast offs. Often end of date, and full of bread and pastries. Yet all of those listed below define this as good food. And they only do so, because they are happy to facilitate this two-tier food system. One we all benefit from and the other for a food-underclass underpinned by their distorted ‘good’ food alternative. It is intended to kid hungry people that crap food is good for them. It is a method to keep End Hunger in the game which for them, seemingly matters more than tackling hunger. Remember, they all need to drink the milk from the cow that is Fareshare – it is THE main supplier of the crap food they all need in order for there to be a story to tell. Never would this group bite off the hand that literally feeds them.
What is most concerning is bodies such as Sustain, Food Ethics Council and the Food Foundation have signed up to this lie – it is a travesty, but they know that. Their hypocrisy is stark, and all the time people are starving. To repeat, 80% of everyone hungry steers clear of this charity scam because the food is so poor and the stigma too great. Yet this porn-star alliance carries on disregarding hungry people by disregarding their health, disregarding their dignity and perpetuating the lie that they are distributing nutritionally-balanced food.
The term apostate comes to mind.
PORN-STARS and their response to FOOD-AID-STANDARDS:
They’re a funny crowd these porn-stars. There to support every call their porn-star mates make or if they can, align themselves something that catches a PR gaze. However, if something is suggested, from outside of their porn-star clique the indignant silence begins.
A few months ago, we put a call out for the creation of food standards for food aid. You know the type of food standards that protect us all, who already have food choice, but do nothing for those who are hungry. We thought this was a no brainer. A step towards hungry people being fed well. A step towards the protection of the health of those most vulnerable and the opportunity for the food aid sector to self-regulate their food offer. Regulations no more difficult than this:
Food-aid should cater for cultural differences and dietary requirements
Food-aid should remove the use of tinned meats
Food-aid should remove the use of any end-of-date products
Food-aid should supply fresh fruit and vegetables
Food-aid parcels should always be able to provide nutritious family meals, and help to facilitate this.
Refrigeration should always be available and;
Every food aid outlet should be subject to food hygiene registration and checks, just like every other food entity.
Then came the response = almost total silence, except for one tweet, weeks later, from Sustain, saying ‘this looks interesting’. So, let’s make a comparison…just a few weeks ago, Prue Leith goes live with her hospital food campaign and who are right there in total support? Sustain of course. They tweet immediately and in one day, produce 10 tweets/retweets in support. Sustain the campaigner for good food, whose CEO is prominent in the End Hunger Alliance, allows her organisation to get right behind the PR Prue Leith may bring, but when it comes to representing and improving the lot of hungry people, nothing more than..1 tweet saying ‘this looks interesting’. It is double standards and it is calculated.
PORN-STARS, BREXIT and the FUTURE:
Brexit will be the next big fundraiser for Trussell and Fareshare and all of their Alliance buddies. Already the news is creeping out about the loss of supply to foodstuffs and the likely impact on those in poverty. The deals will be done and here is a prediction, it will be even more crap food pushed down the necks of the hungry. All sanctioned by the porn-stars in the name of crisis and the story they want to tell – when a different story could have been in place.
5 years ago, we started to campaign for the food aid industry to change course and start to feed people well – introducing viable ideas and asking the food aid sector to change their working practices – simple changes too. Had it done so, food aid would be more robust and resilient to change and be in a position to push back on Brexit. But of course, the porn-stars have held firm in their defence of the crap food system and what will transpire, is much more of the same or worse still, no food at all. And as always, they will point the finger at Government and never ever consider they have any responsibility.
Brexit is at the door of the Tories, but if hunger increases because of it – the food-poverty-porn-stars will have played a major part.
One last Brexit thought: There could be one major benefit of a no-deal-type-Brexit…organisations like FareShare will likely struggle with supply and with it, the donations into the Trussell model. Now that would be interesting, because then, we may see the food-aid-alliance-porn-stars change their tact and be forced to think about a new food model. If it happens, we bet the same porn-star-Alliance who have created the current food-aid mess, will want to be trusted with the design of what comes next – which is akin to asking the Tories to redesign the benefits system.
In the recent past, we have spoken at 2 conferences. One full of food policy academics, the second, mostly public health workers, some of whom were in very senior positions. We presented much of what is written here and what stood out – not one dissenting voice and plenty of support. Hundreds of people in attendance, not one dissenting voice. So how come nothing changes? How come public health stays silent about crap food and how come only a handful of academics ever criticise Trussell Trust and FareShare. Maybe this is the answer. In one of the conferences, a woman who was managing a food aid project in London said privately, ‘we all agree with you, but your message is ‘cheeky’ and we don’t want to upset Trussell Trust because what else can we do”? What was being said was – we agree with the truth, but the truth when it is spoken, is cheeky and we will side with the lie, because the lie keeps us in the food aid gang.
For some reading this, our approach may seem confrontational or could possible offend. As we have said before, if you are offended ask yourself why? After all, all we want is to feed hungry people good food when it is possible to do so. And consider this. In dealing with many of the indignant-apostate-porn-stars highlighted above, we have throughout reached out, provided solutions to the hunger issues millions face. We are not in it for the research, the charity or the sanctimonious lines about ‘putting ourselves out of business.’ We are in it to feed people well at the point they need food = TODAY. We are good food practitioners, not think-pieces. We sit on the frontline of hunger and see the damage no/or crap food does to people and then how different people become when they are fed well/treated with respect. Yet, the disdain shown by those porn-stars who do nothing but research the same old stuff or produce more charity-how-to guides, is incredible. This group never puts a viable/sustainable idea on the table, other than to blame the Government or call for more charity. This is why they are, and will remain…
You could ask a hundred people to define the same term and you’d likely get a hundred different answers. Ask a friend for the definition of spring and they’d tell you it’s their favourite season, ask a five-year-old and they’ll say it’s what makes their trampoline so bouncy.
When it comes to definition and interpretation, these blurred lines are often unavoidable, necessary even as meanings continually evolve along with society. But when it comes to people going hungry, these in-between, unsure and not-too-certain grey areas are dangerous.
Take the dictionary definition of food for example;
‘any nutritious substance that people eat in order to maintain life’.
‘a stock of something available for use when required’.
And now, food bank;
‘a place where stocks of food, typically basic provisions and non-perishables, are supplied free to people in need’.
You see how the definition has changed as the two words have been joined for effect. Gone is any reference to nutrition, replaced instead with the words ‘non-perishables’. Food banks are now institutionalised and as such, the food that these institutions supply is their priority. it’s their established service, their daily operation, it is, by their very definition, their primary concern. Yet, as we continue to uncover, the largest food-aid bodies have broadened that definition so widely that they see themselves not as a distributor with service, but as ‘campaigners’ with ‘lived’ experience – a voice rather than a purveyor of food. Ask any hungry person what they require – good food or a service that speaks on their behalf? Without doubt every hungry person will choose good food.
To challenge austerity and political poverty drivers is commendable, and charity has a role in giving voice to these issues. It’s important, it needs to be done – it’s what we do here at Can Cook. But it cannot infringe on the value or quality of a charity’s principal service. When it comes to food banks, quality food distribution shouldn’t be a supplement to political campaigning – political campaigning should always be a supplement to quality food distribution. But as we all know, quality food distribution is contentious – a tension brought about by those who will probably never be hungry and therefore never have to eat food bank food. So, what is a fair route to resolving this issue and what is a route that is wholly based on equality and health?
If you chase two rabbits, you’ll lose them both.
In everyday life, we all benefit from food standards, set to protect our health and wellbeing. Standards to protect food production and supply. However, they were set without any reference to the waste and want generated by the supply of food-aid. That’s why food-aid standards are so vital. Food-aid standards isn’t a request that’s beyond the means of Trussell Trust and Co, it’s not a request that requires huge structural change or mammoth investment. Food-aid standards is a call requiring just one step that food-aid can take as a collective unit to work with a nationwide pool of donors and communities being able to protect the health and wellbeing of millions going hungry.
If you’re against this call, ask yourself why. Why wouldn’t you want families and children in food poverty to be fed well? Many have stood behind the call and we thank those that have involved themselves in what we’re calling the #DOnation pledge, but it hasn’t been without its detractors.
Scanning through the comments we’ve received across social media, there has been not one critic who’s been against the mission of introducing food-aid standards – instead that criticism has stemmed from the fact that this campaign has been directed at the indolence of food-aid bodies rather than the UK government. One comment in particular read; ‘To criticise food charities for their efforts is like castigating an amateur fishing vessel for not being a fully equipped lifeboat when it rescues someone at sea.’ Really? After ten years of the same food-aid service, a service that 80% of hungry people do not use, do we not seek to proactively create the best lifeboats for ourselves, or we do let people drown in the name of ‘there should be an equipped lifeboat already provided’?
Do we, as a nation knee-deep in food poverty, allow a child to remain without fresh food in the name of ‘we don’t want to let the government off the hook’?
Let’s be clear, the mere existence of a food banks has let the Government off the hook, and it’s a Government that really does not care whether a child is eating a freshly made roast dinner or a tinned Fray Bentos pie. Moreover, speak to the Labour Shadow Cabinet and they will admit that in power, any changes they administer will take years to progress. Let’s face reality – our government is not going to change at the rate that we need it to, at the rate that food-aid can (if it wants to). So, with an uncaring Government and right now an ineffective opposition – where and when will the policy change of tomorrow come from? Are we to leave the system as it is and continue on feeding hungry people the worst food in modern production? Surely any charity that sees itself as a counter to social ills would never want to feed hungry people this way, but sadly they do.
It’s rather strange that we have a food-aid system full of charities who believe they can change Government policy, but do not have the means to change the quality of their service or do not see it as their role to do so. Food-aid charities should only ever be about feeding the most vulnerable people well – any deference shown here, no matter its intent, is a derogation of charitable duty – and it is reactive in the extreme.
Introducing food-aid standards will:
Generate a good food supply to feed people well
Make sure the private sector provides only good food into the food-aid supply chain
Stop food waste (right now over 50% of food donated for food-aid is wasted)
Enable food parcels that are standard not random – quality over quantity
Provide improved training/job opportunities for volunteers
We hope you join the campaign to introduce food-aid standards and make sure that people going hungry are fed with the dignity that they deserve.
Reactive: ‘acting in response to a situation rather than creating or controlling it’.
Definitions are a funny thing.
*Update – We are currently in conversation with Shadow MP’s & Governmental Departments in our effort to introduce food-aid standards. If you’d like to show your support, tweet using the #DOnation hashtag.
There exists a UK-approved international treaty that recognises the right to ‘nutritionally adequate and safe food for every individual.’ We know that today, due to unprecedented levels of UK poverty, this right is not upheld. We could support this claim by publishing a vast array of figures and statistics, but I don’t think we need to.
This year, a report commissioned by the UN attributed the UK’s national poverty crisis to ‘deliberate policy choices’ that have removed the UK’s social safety net.
They’re right. To stop food poverty, government policy must change.
To end hunger, a variety of government reforms and actions and strategies must be addressed.
These policy changes, as we have learned, will undoubtedly, deplorably even, be delivered slowly and incoherently – if they’re to be delivered at all.
Should we be infuriated at this political indolence and unwillingness?
Should we remain outraged that our most vulnerable citizens are consistently endangered by the government’s experiments in austerity?
Should we, as one Guardian article put it, be vociferously ‘discomforted’ at the mere existence of food banks in 2019 Britain?
Yes. Undoubtedly so.
But right now, today, food banks do exist.
And if there’s one change we can make, on behalf of a child going hungry today, it’s introducing food standards into food banks. Because today, there are over 1200 UK food banks that do not supply fresh food – and today there are millions of families relying on ultra-processed, unhealthy food at potentially the hardest time in their lives.
So our message to you is, keep fighting. Keep doing it. Keep pleading. Keep putting pressure on our government to eradicate poverty. We’re standing with you.
And right now, today, we need you to stand with us.
Support the introduction of food standards for national food-aid bodies. Share this post as far and wide as your can, using the hashtag #doNATION across social media and let’s change millions of lives for the better.
While we fight for a fairer tomorrow, let’s create a fairer today.
For some time now we have been alerting the public to a food-aid predicament.
Set up to feed hungry people, food-aid in fact does quite the opposite with only 20% of those going hungry choosing to go to food banks. The reason? The stigma families face from requiring food-aid often acts as a deterrent to accessing it, and, as we will address here, because the quality of the food dispensed is so poor. For clarification, food-aid is an austerity food model response to a public austerity system; forcing hungry people to eat poor-food because they are poor.
“Food-aid is an austerity food model response to a public austerity system; forcing people to eat poor-food because they are poor.”
It is a predicament well known to the food-aid sector, but ignored because they are resolute in their position that poor-food-for-hungry-people is their preferred position, insisting through the promotion of long-standing and spurious defence that only poor-food is viable in treating hunger. Therefore, with 80% of the nation’s hungry people desperately in need of a service that feeds them, lets unpick the predicament, the reasons for the predicament and then suggest a viable way forward.
As already stated, but well worth repeating – 80% of hungry people do not access any formal structure of food-aid, in part due to the poor-food offer. This means even though the service is free, as many as 5 million people deemed food-insecure are remaining hungry or are going it alone with all that entails. This is a public health crisis.
The Reasons for the Predicament:
The same poor-food model has been in place for 10 years with no improvement. Last week two studies indicating ‘killer-foods’ to be avoided were published. The alert was to ask the public to consider avoiding eating these ultra-processed foods to prolong healthier lives. Yet, this is the same food often included in a typical food bank parcel – a fact known to food-aid and its various alliances – a fact ignored as the same sector/alliances sanction a two-tier food system that puts hungry people right at the bottom of the food pile.
“…a two-tier food system that puts hungry people right at the bottom of the food pile.”
In the defence of their food bank parcel – a parcel given out to 1.8m people in a calendar year – the Trussell Trust insist:
Food banks can’t store perishable food because they do not have fridges.
Tins and non-perishable products are easier for the public to donate and their volunteers to dispense. And here is the most spurious;
Fresh food is too heavy for hungry people to carry home because they often live miles away from the food bank – yes, the Trussell Trust actually said this to us.
About Fridges: Should any ‘food’ entity ever set out to dispense food without setting out to provide fresh as part of its offer? We think not. This no-fridge excuse has been around for 10 years and still no fridges are forthcoming. A large, second-hand fridge costs £100. Are we really saying that local fundraising would not be able to raise £100? Surely not. Or consider this, the Trussell Trust were given a £10m grant by ASDA to improve its food bank structure. If the Trussell Trust chose to purchase new fridges for all 1200 of their distribution points (at £175 each), it would cost £210,000, which would leave £9,790,000 of their ASDA grant to spend on their management team development etc.
But this was never going to happen, instead the Trussell Trust produced this report, attempting to justify their poor-food model. As you read the report here (and if you are an academic, a dietitian, or public health worker or whoever) note the flimsy methodology, the subjective term ‘Nutritionally-Adequate’, and the ‘big food change’ they made following the report publication.
About Public Donations: For 5 years we have suggested a strong starting point to change the food supply into food banks is to ‘educate-the-donor’. Ask the public to donate only the goods necessary to feed hungry people well. The public have already proved themselves generous, so are we saying the same public would not donate the correct food if given the good-food option? – Of course not. But Trussell maintain that to change the request from poor-food to good-food would put donors off – really?! We will leave you to decide. We have written more on this subject here.
Fresh food is too heavy to carry home: Think about this, a defence made is that tinned food is lighter to carry than fresh food. Again, we will leave you to decide.
All of this leaves us with a predicament that means food banks:
Only dispense ultra-processed ‘killer-foods’
Do not cater for any dietary requirements (so where do vegetarians, vegans, gluten intolerant etc go?)
Only offer food that can be eaten as products and not meals. As a modern society, we do not eat products, so why is this okay for hungry people to do so? And:
Offer food parcels that are nutritionally deficient – at a time when hungry people require the opposite.
To qualify this, take the food parcel challenge. This picture below is of a Trussell Trust Family food parcel, intended to feed a family for 3 days. So here is your challenge – devise a meal for you and your family and when you have done so, create another one. Here are the rules – family portions, nutritious, and creating something you would be happy to eat yourself. Send us your results.
Now watch and consider this. A video sanctioned by the Trussell Trust and a recipe devised by a chef. This is how hungry people are being advised to eat a food parcel. Again, ask yourself, how would you feel if you had no choice but to eat this food?
Food Standards for Food-Aid:
What we propose is nothing dramatic, just something similar to what we the mainstream public already enjoy…
We think a legitimate and fair step forward would be to create food standards for food-aid.
Therefore, it is right to extend the reach of food standards to cover all aspects of food-aid.
Food standards for food-aid would improve the quality of the food that food banks manage and most importantly, protect the health of wellbeing of hungry people. To achieve this the normal course of action would need to take place:-
Produce draft standards
Have the draft standards agreed by the food-aid sector (preferable), academics, professional/public bodies = BMA, BDA, Public Health England etc
Lobby for support of MP’s / Ministers
Lobbying support of the relevant GOV civil service departments
All things considered, the poor-food-for-poor-people model has been exposed for what it is and those who understand the need for good food to protect a person’s health, agree change is required. It is unlikely that Trussell Trust/FareShare will agree to any change, because their whole model depends on the distribution of poor-food. Therefore, any future adoption will require change from others within the various food-aid Alliances that are set up to protect the welfare and prospects of hungry people – time will tell if any within these groups are willing to break ranks.
We propose to pursue this via political means in the first instance. We hope the food-aid sector will come on board.
If you want to offer support, please get in touch.
Recently, the number of people using food banks were said to have increased substantially. In Wales alone, the use of food banks is up by 14% on previous estimates. Throughout the UK, the issue of poverty and how it is to be tackled is the biggest single social issue we face.
‘Hungry children struggle to learn and play, hungry adults struggle to cope with the pressures that poverty brings.’
Within this struggle, it is incumbent on the public and third sectors to do much more than add to the pressures people face. Food banks and their structure is a valuable resource, providing points of contact and some measure of security to vulnerable people. However, Food aid is now an industry. Led by charities who have chosen a route similar to the food-aid movement in the USA – notably becoming the recipient of large-scale funding and waste food provided by private sector food companies.  This approach means, without further need for clarification, that food-aid has become institutionalised. It’s a model that’s favoured by government, promoted by charities, supported by the press and, as a consequence, largely trusted by a well-meaning but misinformed, public.
Alongside this growth of food aid charity, the growth of food poverty has been exponential with one continuum throughout; the food offer has remained very poor. Originally, the concept of food-aid was designed to be a stop-gap, available to assist hungry/vulnerable people to get over a short crisis. Now the provision is expected to do much more than fill a gap. It is now about supporting people for much longer periods. For many people, poverty has become a forced lifestyle with food-aid required to play an integral role in their lives. Food-aid therefore, should always be about feeding people well – it should be about equality of standards and it most definitely should be about protecting peoples’ health.
Food banks are, by their very name, purveyors of food. The growth of the model determines that it operates like a business, masked behind the badge of charity. Food banks trade their services into communities, drawing from a supply chain that includes masses of food from the private supply chain. It is therefore fair to ask food banks, and the logistics that serve them, to adhere to food standards – food standards that protect the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable people in the UK.
So far, food standards as they exist, are ignored by the food bank structure and the public sector appear to sanction this, in order to facilitate a poor-food service that is at least ‘doing something’ to feed hungry people. The poorest people therefore, have no choice other than to eat the poorest food the modern food industry can serve up. No longer can this ‘doing something’ attitude suffice and no longer can the health and wellbeing of those deemed to be poor, be undermined. The whole food aid landscape needs to change to move beyond a service delivery that is about quantity over quality and into a service that is truly about good food for all. Introducing/implementing food-aid food standards would an important step in the right direction.
There is no doubt we face another decade of food aid and with the past 10 years to reference, it is only right and fair to those who will need to access it that the food offered to them is improved and protected. Too much of the past debate has been emotive and about ignoring the facts. It is, therefore, time for the food-aid movement to start to self-regulate and to want to feed people well.
Much has been written about the need for policy changes to benefits and rightly so, but they will not happen without a change of government and even then, it could take years. People are hungry and need good food, it is not fair or just to keep them waiting when solutions are available. The next step requires leadership from those in leadership positions and it requires focused attention upstream and into government to extract achievable change that has a chance to improve the indignity people face when hungry.
Below we’ve begun our list of food-aid standards we want to be implemented across all food aid offered in the UK (there are others to add). We’re inviting you, the reader, whatever your involvement is with the food-aid sector, to add to this list through the comments section below or using the hashtag #FoodAid and at @foodpoverty. Let us know what improvements you want to see, and as we develop the campaign, help us to protect the health and welfare of millions currently going hungry.
We’ve started the list below – our standards relate to the food only – transport and storage are already covered in by existing standards for business.
Food-aid should cater for cultural differences and dietary requirements
Food-aid should remove the use of tinned meats
Food-aid should remove the use of any end-of-date products
Food-aid should supply fresh fruit and vegetables
Food-aid parcels should always be able to provide nutritious family meals, and to help facilitate this
Refrigeration should be available at all food-aid outlet
Taking steps to create good food aid standards is something that can be done now. It is time to design a service that puts the hungry person first – the list we have started here, can already be provided if the food aid sector chooses to take part, so there is no block from a delivery point of view. However, to date, the same food aid sector chooses not to – maybe the next 12 months will see a positive change?
 ASDA donated £20m to FareShare and Trussell Trust to expand food aid provision.
If you have not read the TT report yet, here is their blog and link to the report.
Recent evidence from Canada states that food insecure adults are more vulnerable to chronic health conditions – conditions that require a good diet and care to stave off illness.
Without doubt the same applies here – hence the need to feed hungry people well, hence the need to change the current food aid system to feed people good food.
The long-awaited TT nutritional report was published last week. An opportunity for the TT to show themselves as an organisation that care about what people eat when they are hungry. Instead, it was a study/report set up to do nothing more than convince others that the current food aid parcel is nutritious and therefore ok to push onto hungry people. It was an exercise in trying to protect their poor-food model as opposed to using their now considerable resources to plot a sustainable course to feeding people well.
The headline claim is the food aid parcel is ‘nutritiously-adequate’ – REALLY! … let’s take a look at this claim and in particular the method deployed by the Academics who according to their biogs are ‘food experts’.
Upfront and clear throughout the report and the adjoining blog on the TT website written to promote it was to try to protect their existing food parcel and steer away from improving the quality of the food for hungry people. This was well supported by a particularly narrow and therefore weak methodology set up by the academics. A methodology which was about subjectivity throughout, suiting the TT purpose rather than setting out a clear case and objective look at how people need to be fed. A quick glance at the references in the report tells every reader the study was narrow and set up to prove the point that the food aid package is nutritional – which it categorically is not – more of this later.
The title of this blog is a ‘Missed Opportunity’ and here is why. The TT have the resources to change the food offer if they wish and there is the knowledge in the food aid system to deliver that change. But instead, their aim was to try and substantiate their previous claims that the parcel is nutritious. So, 10 years into using a poor-food-for-poor-people model, they set out to steadfastly defend rather than amend and when something is wrong and that is the starting point, poor work follows. It could have been so different.
The report claims a number of things and makes recommendations all shaped around protecting the parcel below – this is the parcel the report talks about…
The authors (academics) claim this to be nutritional and also claim that the parcel above is able to feed a person adequately for up to 5/6 days. We challenge anyone to find 3 days-worth of meals in the above package so let your imagination run wild and find 5/6 days = not possible, not credible.
Put 3 meals a day together from the named products and see how you do? Also calculate for yourselves how much sugar/additives the parcel pushes into a person’s system – for a bit of assistance here a few of the ingredient lists for you to consider:
The Savoury Rice:
Chopped Ham with Pork:
Healthy eh, nutritious eh?
And each item loaded with sugar and that’s without any focus on the sugar in desserts – yet taking out bags of sugar will clearly make everything better – more of this later.
Time to unpick the analysis:
It’s important to note that the authors do not declare what foods they analysed – it appears to be just a random selection drawn from a lot of other random selections? This is the first food report we have read were the food discussed is omitted from the evidence trail – in fact the evidence trail of this report is incredibly thin indeed. Anyway, with no food list to refer to, here is what stands out:
In an aim to provide a ‘robust’ case… the authors chose to ignore the family, concentrating only on single people. With such a gap in the method how can a claim of ‘nutritionally-adequate be applied?
The report claims… the parcel is nutritionally balanced if the hungry person eats everything in the parcel? We know that never happens, because and about 45% of the parcel remains uneaten as it cannot be eaten as meals. A glaring omission by the authors – strip out 45% and let’s see the analysis then?
The report does not… take account of dietary needs, vegetarianism etc – and the impact the parcel has on people requiring a specific diet – no analysis here at all?
The report overlooks… where this so-called nutrition comes from = ultra-processed foods. Foods that are known to damage a person’s health – food that should never play any part in feeding a hungry person. Of course, the claim of the authors and TT is it’s a package only for emergencies – this is nonsense and it only serves to reinforce poor food habits that no public health advice would sign up to.
The report overlooks…the need for fibre in a person’s diet and there is no mention of fibre anywhere in the report – an omission or deemed not relevant by the authors? Either would indicate a mistake that strips away another level of the nutritionally-adequate claim.
The report does not reflect… on the needs of children and how children are forced via the food bank parcel to eat ultra-processed adult foodstuffs.
The report claims the food items being eaten in a balanced way… without the density of eating whilst hungry for example, eating… tinned pies, followed by hot dogs, followed by another tinned meat dish – because that what people do/select when they are hungry – stuff themselves with savoury high fat salt and sugar stuff. And yes, this is what happens when people are hungry and any claim otherwise is spurious.
The report, and let’s use the authors own words here…says, ‘Whilst the sum of the food items in the parcels were nutritionally adequate (with the exception of sugar, salt and Vitamin D)… Here we have analysis that states a food bank parcel is high in salt, very high in sugar and lacks vitamin D = too much salt and sugar, both on the ‘killer-food’ watchlist by the way and needing vitamin D; you know the very vitamin that stops rickets, protects teeth etc – and with all this is going on and the parcel is still ‘nutritionally-adequate’ – don’t think so.
The report reinforces the poorest eating habits = saying its ok for the poorest people to receive the poorest food because they are poor. When what is required is food education and always options to feed hungry people the best food possible. And saving the best for last…
The report says it’s ok for poor people to eat in an abnormal way. A way nobody was brought up to eat in. That is to eat products over meals. Go back to the picture and what the TT and authors are saying is ‘we know the food parcel doesn’t consist of meal options – but hey, your poor so eat poor products instead. What is outrageous about this outcome is the report has been compiled by ‘food experts’ and signed off by the TT Management Team – clearly both parties think forcing people to eat products over meals is the right thing to do. And using this as a very clear and appropriate benchmark, this point alone completely removes the report as a credible piece of research.
So how has all this been dressed up to read as if there is something credible to be found?
The TT have done their usual pretending that this is another nutritional report in a series they have produced. Anyone who takes an interest in this subject knows this is the first report, pushed out because of the noise that agencies like us are making. It’s all about trying to protect their service offer and nothing in the report or the subsequent TT actions shouts ‘we are wanting to feed people well’. The food aid package remains as it is with one major change – the removal of a bag of sugar. Yes, the headline change is the removal of the bag of sugar and hungry people will now of course be much better off. You couldn’t make this up. All the resource they have put into the report and build up the TT have given it and A BAG OF SUGAR becomes the major change item.
The route the TT could have took was one that chose to understand and action the change needed to rectify the problem of products over meals. In this context and back to the missed opportunity stuff…the report does rightly reflect on the products not meals, however absolutely nothing is actioned – here is the excerpt:
If the intention was to feed people well, this is the most important piece of the report but it was never the intention and so it did become a recommendation by the authors = No. And do the TT intend to do anything about it = No. Never mind, everything is now fine, because those poor hungry people can’t get their hands on a bag of sugar. As already noted – you couldn’t make this up.
A comment or two of the authors/their research:
Of course, we do not know what their brief was, but it is fair to expect researchers to present a robust case when expecting people to legitimately accept the finding of a report that is supposed to be about feeding people better when they are in crisis.
What is damming about the academics approach is they chose, after 10 years of poor-food-supply by the TT, to ignore the human case and simply use software to apply their bias, and it is a bias, given the human factor was ignored. Put simply, there is no reflection on how people eat or do not eat the food aid package and that is a glaring miss for people who introduce themselves as having a food expertise. They have assumed that the whole food package is eaten when that does not happen – they have analysed products over meals – when in fact they accept people eat meals over products (see above). And although they noted this as a concern, it does not appear as a headline recommendation…clearly demonstrating that it was research to protect service over people, so crisis over care. It’s a miss and such a glaring miss that it negates the whole study.
Throughout the report a number of other things stand out.
1 – The authors repetition of well-rehearsed TT lines.
2 – Poor referencing
About those well-rehearsed lines/caveats to help protect the route to change if the route is not taken. They said of the changes – “it is recommended these are not made until an analysis is conducted to determine if any changes:
do not significantly increase the cost of donations;
do not negatively impact the volume of public donations;
do not negatively affect stock availability;
Fit with clients’ constraints on food preparation (e.g. lack of utensils, refrigeration or cooking facilities);
Written as if it was the TT themselves putting up their already well-worn defence; a defence that rolls out if any perceived criticism is made. It indicates that the authors know very little about how the food aid system works or how people engage with the system as donors or use the system when hungry. We found this quite surprising given one of the authors has been working at a food bank as part of their PHD?
About the references: Take a look, it’s a reference list to suit the end result not to apply objectivity or steer towards any sort of alternative outcome – after all, the TT are the client.
To finish – here we go again… the TT seemingly happy with the report results – a report that satisfies them with the term ‘nutritionally-adequate’. No doubt the TT will push it out to their food banks as if it adds some sort of credibility to their food work. – it doesn’t. Agreeing to the reports findings also indicates that there is no food expertise within the Trussell Trust – their skills are in franchise management, logistics and PR – yet they want to be trusted with people’s diet and wellbeing?
The food parcel is not nutritious and look into the report itself and its says so. Anything that is high in salt, very high in sugar, lacks Vitamin D and requires people to eat products over meals, is not nutritious and you don’t need to be a food expert to identify with that.
Oh, and don’t forget, the glaring error made by the authors who assumed the whole parcel gets eaten – it doesn’t, far from it.
In time, we are sure this report will be seen for what it is, a blatant attempt by the TT to justify an already discredited position of feeding people incredibly poor food. This was a chance to rectify a serious problem in the food aid system and treat people with the dignity they deserve. The TT have the resources to stop the problem but they chose not to and those close to the problem know why.
Now the report is published, we are left with a food bank service that is little more than a game of food-Russian-roulette for hungry people = containing pot luck products and some dangerous foodstuffs that most people would never choose for themselves. It is known that 8-10 hungry people do not use food banks because of the embarrassment and the poor quality of the food on offer – that means only 20% of hungry people approach food banks. Surely with the resources it now has, the TT would want to help create a good food aid system that encouraged the other 80% to use its services – evidently not.
The report and TT ‘sugar action’ will do nothing improve this situation. Consequently, most hungry people will struggle and stay hungry outside of the food aid system and those who do enter into the food bank offer will continue to get fed badly.
Last week, we were heartened to hear that a few key decision makers are now starting to listen to the very strong argument we have put forward that proves TT provide a poor-food offer to hungry people. We intend to use the report as further evidence that the TT have no intention of changing.
Our campaign work continues and will do so until the TT feed people well.
 We commissioned a dietitian to report of the nutritional content of the TT Family package. Its supports the assessment that the package is high in salt and sugar but also notes the package becomes deficient in calories when applied to family eating.
If you read this and think we are criticising you because, for example, you work hard at a food bank, you are wrong. For us, it’s all about the food and making sure people get fed well. Importantly if you work for a food bank and/or want to help hungry people we would hope its about the food for you too.
We have worked/researched for over 5 years to overcome the poor-food-for-poor-people approach of food aid in the UK. Every week, we get emails and various other contacts claiming that food aid has to use processed tinned food because…with a whole host of reasons listed.
So, let’s unpick those reasons. And to start, let’s get every reader focused:
EVERY HUNGRY PERSON DESERVES THE BEST FOOD POSSIBLE AND PROVIDING GOOD-FOOD-AID IS POSSIBLE = FACT.
Here are the headlines of some of the work we have undertaken.
We know over 50% of food banks parcels go uneaten or unused because they are random items that don’t work as meals. As a quick test – take a food parcel home and cook it for yourself and let us know your results?
We know over 60% of surplus food provided by organisations like Fareshare is never used because it is again random, end of date or processed. This means it’s being thrown away by centres and others who are paying for the service.
We know most food donated to food banks is done randomly and so, random food in means random food out. If most people can’t cook (which is the claim by a lot of food banks) what is the point of random food when all it presents is a difficult ‘ready steady cook’ exercise?
Imagine the difference that could be made if the food was not random…moving on:
We know that when people are hungry they make bad decisions and likely to stay in their crisis. If they eat well, they make better decisions and are more likely to move on. If you disagree with this, please take the time to fast and then feed yourself for a week or longer on a random food aid parcel and see how you get on with your decision making. This is important because people are being expected to stop their crisis eating only very poor-processed-food – it just doesn’t add up.
We know that there are food banks all over the country stuck with stock of food they cannot use because it has been randomly donated and foodbanks that are always in need of other foods and goods that are donated less or not at all. Wouldn’t it be much better if only the food needed was donated – it can be done.
The above sets the context, now let’s start taking about those structural issues – and as we do, imagine creating a good-food-aid system – the best in the world if you like – why wouldn’t anyone want to be part of that and all the time making sure hungry people stay healthy?
Here are 10 issues to get us started:
We can’t provide fresh food and only supply
We don’t have refrigeration.
Ask the Trussell Trust to purchase one for you (£20m from ASDA) or if you are an independent food bank, fundraise £120 (or less) to purchase one. Start by wanting to offer good food and the rest will follow.
We rely on volunteers and they don’t have the skills to handle fresh food.
Volunteers can be easily/cheaply trained in food hygiene (back to the £20m ASDA fund again or local funds). Surely every volunteer who could would want to train and learn new skills and every food bank offer to training as part of their development?
We don’t have the space to store fresh food.
It’s all about priorities here. There is space for processed food but not for fresh food – why? It’s a simple change.
Fresh food is too expensive for people to donate.
If this were true then the whole food aid system does not add up because people are donating more expensive items now? People will donate whatever food they think people need – educate the donor.
You can’t tell people what to donate it will put them off donating.
Linked to 4. People are already told what food banks need and they donate and also food banks run appeals for particular items – so if it works, it works – educate the donor.
People don’t know how to cook fresh food and prefer processed food to fresh.
Regarding cooking: This is mostly right but imagine if the food aid parcel was not random and contained items that could be cooked simply with very easy to follow recipes – we have done this work and it’s a simple change. Regarding fresh food: We’ve never met anyone who has turned down fresh good meals and take random processed tins instead (but still the claim is made)
People don’t have an electricity or gas supply.
The claim often is that most people don’t have utilities so can’t cook -so we give them poor food to eat cold. Let’s unpick this, it’s not true that most don’t have utilities, some don’t, most do. So is the food aid service really designed to cater for the few? Also, 10 years on cold processed food is the best that can be offered? Well we know it isn’t and we have developed fresh food options that only require a kettle or a microwave and almost everyone regardless of their struggle can get access to either. Design/deliver the service for the many and the few and people lives will change for the better.
Supermarkets can’t store donated fresh food for food banks to collect.
Supermarkets can do whatever they want. They have the resources and if it makes sense to them, they will do it. If they can put a trolley at the front of the store why not a tall fridge. It’s all about the service they are asked to provide.
We need chiller vans to collect fresh food from supermarkets.
Again, most big supermarket chains have home delivery chiller vans – why can’t a fresh food bank run be added. Remember the current delivery/collection system has been planned so why would there be a problem adapting?
Fresh food is heavier than processed food and people can’t carry it.
The best for last – Yes this was a reason given to us by a senior Trussell Trust representative and yes they did say vegetables were heavier than tins so fresh food was not an option.
Educate the donor – whoever they are:
Most of the changes we advocate rely on a food aid system that treats every donor as an adult and is the result of negotiation that has every hungry person in mind. And most of the problems are caused by the random the food supply that Fareshare and Trussell Trust say is the only one possible to maintain their services. This is not the case.
Imagine if every shopper and every supermarket was educated on the food that was necessary to feed people well without waste. We are sure they would welcome the information and adjust accordingly (supermarkets might not because they have other motives, but it should always be part of the negotiation with them).
With the information, over time people will donate accordingly and if they don’t want to join a good-food-supply-chain (supermarkets etc) they should not be allowed into the food aid system. Any compromise here then it’s a service about the service provider and not the hungry person.
We have a full plan on how to:
Educate the donor
How to provide good fresh food at scale and safety
How to create a food aid parcel that everyone can cook or use
How each parcel can contain fresh meals
We have tried to share this information with the Trussell Trust and they have no interest, claiming good food is not part of their food poverty approach. Therefore, the poor-food-for-poor-people continues and frankly any defence of that model 10 years after it was introduced has no credibility. If you care about people’s welfare first – why would you not want to provide a good-food-aid- service because as we have briefly set out above, the good-food alternative is available.
Yes to the first and it’s about the dignity and care of every hungry person you meet
Yes to second and its about service delivery first – this is the current food aid food offer.
We sit firmly in the feed people well camp, hence our work.
When reading this there is not one public health dietitian or nutritionist or any food expert that would say the TT food aid parcel contains good food. So when the option to change is available – why would TT steadfastly defend it and why wouldn’t they want to change? Read on…
Last week, I spoke at a European conference on how to prevent obesity. During my time there, I met a variety of experts – two made a real impression. One from Greece, the other from Sweden.
The first, a woman from Greece, who has for 5 years worked in extreme conditions of poverty (their austerity is much worse than ours) talked only of the importance of feeding hungry families well and the positive impact that has. Part of her presentation stuck with me when she said ”Hungry people need and deserve the best food” – she couldn’t believe the food aid system we had here. The second, a woman from Sweden talked of how food poverty was not a problem in Sweden but was completely shocked when told of the food bank offer here. She said it would never have been allowed to happen in Sweden – meaning they would make sure the service was about good food first – about the recipient, not the service provider. As we know, the service here is to protect the service provider.
Recently via our @foodpoverty account there has been some interesting activity. Some from caring people who do not have the facts, so their interventions were emotive – this is to be expected and welcomed. Then there was a strong thread of activity, pushed by the TT in an attempt to deflect criticism from their poor-food model, a model that contains no less than 10 foods that are know to kill people in the long term (does this seem strong, well it should do because It’s that serious).
Therefore, following the TT interventions and some of the impassioned comments that followed, indicating that we were in fact being negative with the ‘why don’t we all work together’ cry – I thought I would set the record straight on a few important matters.
For reference, and this distinction matters:
We are food organisation with over 10 years experience of feeding people well.
TT are (regarding food banks) a franchise company with no food experience.
As a charity activity responding to a particular need, the TT have done a great job in creating a network that is able to respond at a particular level. Without their food bank network, the crisis people have been exposed to would have been considerably worse. However, the network and particularly its food offer, requires a specific upgrade to protect people’s health and help people move on. We have concerned ourselves with that upgrade and have done all we can to try to get the TT to respond.
Our contact with the TT has been over 4 years and has always initiated by us. During this time, we have:
Met with the Senior TT Management team: During the meeting they told us they did not think good food was part of the solution (backed up in an email) Told us they knew the food was poor food but as it was not for ‘us’ so it was good enough to give out. To follow up the meeting we were supposed to share information, we shared ours, TT did not share theirs (more of this later). By the way, this meeting was supposed to be about how to improve the food in the food aid system. This was 4 years ago and the TT showed no interest whatsoever.
Invited them to speak at one of our conferences: This year, the TT took us up on the offer and used the conference slot to present their ASDA support. Afterwards the TT representatives said they would call to arrange a meeting about the food offer. Guess what, no contact. A month later, we called to take the initiative and we were assured that they would get back to us within 2 weeks. Guess what, no contact. We called again, only this time to be told they had been too busy to call…really, too busy, there is such an arrogance in this. Here is a maxim to consider – if you forget once, it could be mistake, if you forget multiple times that’s a habit and indicates other motives.
What the above shows is that we have tried to work with the TT to work to improve the food aid system – by the way we have a good-food-first-solution and the TT know this – they just don’t want to get involved – we do wonder why? Maybe the following paragraph will shed some light:
A few things we know, that indicate that the TT has a particular agenda:
The TT are on record stating they want to become the McDonalds of food poverty
TT have just taken (with Fareshare) £20m from Asda to open more food banks or improve the existing.
Last week, the CEO and Head of Policy of TT, implied that our work to feed people well supports Tory policy. Just take a minute to consider the above – the TT want to be the McDonalds of food poverty, they push out only poor-food as their food aid offer and then take in £20m to expand food banks and then accuse us of supporting tory policy – the hypocrisy here is massive and why try to deflect attention from their own growth plan of more food banks and, without doubt, the institutionalisation of food poverty? Maybe more should be asking questions in their direction because not to do so accepts their model and accepts hungry people should be fed poor food.
We have tried to work with the TT to change the food aid system for the better – they don’t want to – so any criticism is to be placed with the TT. Also, as noted earlier, we have a food expertise and we speak of food first because of our expertise. The TT do not have any food expertise, they are a franchise operator and have calculated that the only way to grow their franchise is to make sure poor-processed-food is their food of choice.
Counter to last week’s claims by the TT (they said the food bank model belonged to the food banks) the poor-food-aid model is theirs, they introduced it, they have maintained it and they continue to protect it – it’s theirs, hence we campaign and will continue to campaign against the TT poor-food-model.
To round up this little insight into our TT relationship – one thing stands out about the way they do their business. When criticised they default to emotive twitter content as a first line of defence, hiding behind tweets of food bank users or volunteers of theirs who again are emotive. Food poverty should at some level be emotive, but the approach to feeding people should always be based on expertise and facts. With no food expertise the TT are feeding over 1m people a year – this should be under some considerable scrutiny and we will focus our campaigning attentions on this next.
Also, the TT take in the majority of their funds because they work in food poverty, yet they claim food is not their priority – of course it’s not, of course it is – it just depends who the audience is. Would anyone really be listening to them and would ASDA have given them £20m, if they were talking debt advice and jobs, of course not. For context, read this article the TT CEO talks only of food and food banks and is pictured in front of food. They are all about food and use the emotive content of food to grow their interests – it’s a pity its only ever food that is poor, is obesogenic and harms people’s lives.
To finish, we have found their approach to working with others (unless big money is involved) or they think there is a route to money, is duplicitous and at a time when hungry people have been receiving their poor food for over 10 years you would think they would have the dignity to think of those they claim to represent and feed them well.
Like I have said, it can be done and we have tried to work with them to do it.
In the next few weeks (although it keeps being delayed) the TT will release a report that we believe will look to improve the food they offer or address what they have up differently.
It may include a section of the nutritional content of the food aid package, we hope it does.
If so, we wait with interest to see which ‘expert’ has lent their name to the work, because it’s impossible to say the food aid package is anything but poor – good luck with that one.
It may also indicate that the TT will provide Fridges to food banks to help store fresh food. They may even offer a route to improving the food – we will know soon enough. If they do, both fridges and better food have formed a part of our campaigning and I know we have touched a nerve within the TT walls and they have reluctantly had to shift their offer – would the TT got there in their own – their track record indicates otherwise – so we will see if our campaigning has worked this time around.
We will continue to campaign against TT and any other organisations that supports feeding hungry people the poorest of food. This work will continue until good food becomes the mainstay of the food aid offer. Food banks are here to stay and the TT/Fareshare/ASDA partnership will make sure of that. What we will do is to try and feed people the best food possible and anyone who thinks this is wrong, when there is a food system able to make it happen – think about your motives and remember this quote:
‘Charity is about the redemption of the giver, not the liberation of the receiver.’
Robert Egger: Founder of DC/LA Kitchens
If you see charity as the redemption of the giver then get out of the food aid system.
If you see others acting in that way, help them to change or ask them to leave too. Our campaigning is all about the liberation of the receiver.
Join in, comment or join us.
Blog written by:
Director – Can Cook
About Can Cook:
Can Cook id dedicated to feeding people well regardless of income. We have taught 15,000 people to cook and by the close of 2018, we will have given out 70,000 free fresh meals to families in deprived areas.
We manufacture our own range of foods.
We cater in schools, care homes and nurseries.
We campaign to change the current food aid system to make sure hungry people get fed good food.
We sit within the third sector. We do so because for 11 years we have worked tirelessly to offer good food solutions in deprived areas. In 11 years we have taught over 14,000 people to cook, delivered fresh food services into schools, nurseries and care homes and, importantly in the context of this blog, we have given away 35,000 free, fresh meals to people going hungry in 2017. This is all frontline stuff. Working with children, parents, grandparents, in short; everyone in and working around food poverty.
It is the work that has given us vast experience into people’s eating habits and choices. It is the work that drives our good food model, it is also the work that drives our campaigning. We have campaigned for years to stop the poor food model that is currently the only offer available to most in food poverty. In the first couple of years, we campaigned quietly – getting people around tables, agreeing, disagreeing, producing position papers, arranging conferences all in the hope that we would agree that good food was a better option for hungry people. At the time everyone who attended the conferences (165 organisations) agreed (including the Trussell/ Fareshare reps), but when it came to doing something about it, they all backed off. 3 years on and our campaigning has become that much more targeted, naming organisations who frankly have only their own agenda, trying to get an alternative dialogue going against to the poor food dialogue that dominates the food poverty agenda right across England and Wales. We see campaigning as the cornerstone of all that we do. As campaigners it is so important to tell the truth as we see it, as we have researched it, as we have worked it. Truth that is based on fact and drawn from feeding thousands of people who are both hungry and in need of support. Our campaigns therefore are about representation; representing those who are stuck in austerity with too few options to take them anywhere else. Last week this role to represent took on real focus; a focus that initially generated anger, a focus that gave us further impetus to push harder against those who are hell-bent on making sure that we will always have a food aid system that they can push their poor food into – food that is cast off by a system that has no commercial use for it, food that is so random and processed that skilled chefs could not dig out a series of good meals from it. Ours is not to chirp from the side-lines, criticising. Our campaigning is about facts and the negative impact of poor food on poorer people. Our campaigning is about already having a sustainable solution to food poverty; a solution that positively brings institutions together and only supplies good food to the people who need it.
Anyway, scene set, now onto what made us angry and onto what should make everyone angry if your aim is social justice for those who are blighted by the stress of hunger.
Food poverty is a very emotive subject full of faith, hope, charity and the acts of volunteers who work so hard to make a difference. Because of this you should never criticise the efforts of those involved…after all, lives are being saved and people have found purpose in their volunteering activities – activities that have been the savour of many a church/community group or even big charity. We note this upfront as not to denigrate the efforts of volunteers who are working hard (we know of lots who do) but to lay bare the complexity now in-built into the whole food poverty movement. Careers depend on it, community groups are thriving because of it and all manner of others are spending their time trying to get in on the act. It is activity that is bound together by the regular and sweeping statements from all the actors and all the players involved; statements such as ‘we should not have to be here, we are here to stop food poverty, put ourselves out of business, that’s the plan.’ It’s a decent plan to have under the circumstances. However, the evidence of the last 8 years or so points in a different direction? We have seen poor waste food being recycled as if it was good, rolling out on a larger scale, feeding people badly as it goes along. Then last week, maybe the final nail in the coffin of the ‘we should not have to be here plan’, came the announcement that Trussell Trust and Fareshare have struck a £20m deal to expand their poor food models to anywhere that will take them.
Three years ago, we raised the topic of food poverty becoming institutionalised in the UK with the Trussell Trust becoming the key actor in an ‘institutionalised-plan’. At the time, our thinking was swayed after hearing the former CEO of Trussell declare that he wanted to see the organisation become the ‘McDonalds-of-food-poverty’. Around the same time, the CEO of Fareshare was saying something quite different in front of public audiences. His position was ‘Fareshare was not a food poverty organisation but a food waste organisation’. At first glance there is something of a conflict going on within the two statements with no immediate match up. But then take a step back and dig a little deeper – what you’ll find is a meeting of organisational minds. One wanted growth and needed more supply. The other also wanted growth and needed somewhere to deposit all of its food waste – a good marriage all of a sudden – more of this later.
Canada and the USA have been playing this food waste for poor people game for decades with mountains of proof that it does not work and lets the state off in its responsibility to care for people. It is a deeply flawed model. A model Fareshare and Trussell have followed with real purpose, culminating last week in announcing their news to partner with Walmart to maximise their growth plans. Walmart – the very company known to exploit their employees, many of whom are paid so poorly that they too rely on food handouts. The company that has done more than most to institutionalise food poverty in the USA. It’s immoral, but hey – clearly to some this is just business as usual, so why does this really matter?
It matters because the model is proven to keep people in poverty and it matters because it is proven that such models become little more than an industrial supply chain that pushes its waste and costs onto others, pretending to do otherwise. And it matters because all this is ably abetted by charity.
The intellectual Cornel West once said “Justice is what love looks like in public.” To achieve love in a food context surely it is about health and choice. Yet the exact opposite is on offer by the Trussell and Fareshare. So how can anyone be okay with randomised, mostly unhealthy, food as the only offer to people who are already having their self worth stripped by an evil benefits system or crap pay for a hard days work? Of course, there is an argument that at least some of the food they supply is fine for use and whilst there is lots of waste that is equally fine because at least the some food will feed some people. Well, sorry the argument doesn’t stack up. To back up this point lets inform you, as the reader, of what we found after paying for the Fareshare service for 6 months.
We have a full audit of all foods delivered to us. Of the foodstuff delivered, the parcel
ranged from kinder eggs and chocolate/biscuit items of all kinds (that we refused but they still turned up), loads of bread items onto useful items such as prawns and gammon joints that we could use because we are food producer. But here are the stark figures, for every delivery we received over the period we worked with Fareshare, the average value of the items delivered was £102.21 but the average waste cost (food we could not use and we needed to dispose of) was £62.40. Remember that we have a team of trained chefs on staff, with a combined kitchen experience of over 100 years between them. Yet we still had to dispose of 60% of all goods delivered. We can only estimate from our experience how much food the average Fareshare recipient must waste each and every time they receive their random delivery as most don’t have chefs. Fareshare brands itself as a charity having the objectives of ‘fighting hunger and food waste’, but figures say they are mostly passing that waste on to community centres or to be wasted by households going hungry, therefore accomplishing neither of its aforementioned objectives – so what have Walmart bought into and why?
As already noted, it’s a North American model and across the Atlantic there is real expertise in these poor-food-corporate-buy-in-approaches.
One expert who set up the STOP in Canada (look it up if you don’t know it) said last week…
“Let’s not conflate a food waste strategy with a poverty reduction strategy. It’s destructive to do so. Are we saying the poor among us are only worthy of the castoffs of the industrial food system – the majority of which is unhealthy food, laden with fat, sugar and salt which increases the risk of diet related diseases? There is no question we can and must do better than this as a society.”
Wise words. Words worthy of major consideration, unless you are wanting to get as close as you can to the food industrial complex, unless your intentions are about growth over poverty; unless you are Trussell or Fareshare.
10 days ago, we wrote a blog about changing the story of food poverty, ending that blog with its not too late to change – if the intention was to create a good food system for people who are hungry. Last week changed everything. Last week’s Walmart love-in said to everyone who cares about these matters – food poverty in the UK will become as it is in North America. A service done at pace and all on the back of volunteers, except for those jobs in the management tiers of Fareshare/Trussell, who of course are needed to co-ordinate the logistics of this deeply flawed and deeply immoral model.
A good company is measured not by how it behaves in public when things are going good but how it behaves when things are not so good, and they are in the glare of scrutiny. So here is our experience of both organisations about things that have not gone well.
After carrying our own practice-based research (partly noted above) into their operational models, we approached them both, sometimes meeting with management teams raising our concerns about their poor food models, providing strong evidence. In response, both steadfastly defended their poor food model (offering the most bizarre reasons for their offer of poor food), both reacted with disdain, and this is important, simply ignored all feedback. Now what is interesting here is that we have a food expertise that both Fareshare and Trussell don’t have, we are a food organisation first, with a significant track record in feeding people well in deprived areas. They cared not one bit. For them it was all about logistics and the movement of as much poor food as they could muster. This paragraph is worth noting because it lets you into the psyche of the charities in play here. For them, it’s always been about growth over product and there is no evidence to declare anything to the contrary.
There is ongoing campaign End Hunger that has gathered all of the national players around one table looking to create a model that, as the title suggests, ends hunger. Around that table Trussel and Fareshare sit as the proud supply chain of most of the infrastructure of poor food that gives the campaign the oxygen to exist. It is a campaign that has made some decent recommendations about policy change and has routes to government that can influence. There is no doubt that some around the table care. Now though, the dynamics of that table have changed and there is a big new corporate elephant in the room. An elephant so big that it could distort the whole picture quickly and forever. Moreover, if we look across again to North America, this elephant will do all it can to foist its poor-food options so deep that in just a few years’ time it will be impossible to extract it even if there was a want to do so. Let’s be clear here, if anyone thinks Walmart are going to invest £20million without influence they should not be anywhere near any sort of decision making.
So rounding all this up, and back to the marriage of Trussell and Fareshare, and not forgetting the role of the wider third sector:-
We believe there was unrest in the staff camps of Trussell and Farshare about the Walmart deal, but it still went ahead. In doing the deal, Trussel and Fareshare have declared their hand. Walmart are their partners and they are wedded to growth and poor-food just as their contemporaries working with Walmart are doing are across the Atlantic. Now they may have sold this to their UK food poverty partners (End Hunger and others) as this is a good deal for all involved. After all, more food banks, more poor food, more volunteers, what’s there not to like? We can imagine them saying…’Yes there is going to be a bit of noise about Walmart, but that will die down and then let’s think about all those poor people we can help and those new initiatives we can all create off the back of the big new supply chain of poor food.’ If this, or something like this, has/is being said and this sort of thing is allowed, bought into if you like, then everyone in the supply chain of this Walmart deal will be complicit and no amount of reworking or dressing this up will suffice. Get into bed with Walmart and you will be part of institutionalising food poverty in the UK – no doubt, no further discussion. Take a quick look at twitter to read how the complicity has started with some already starting to distort the argument by claiming food aid has always been institutionalised and what happened last week is merely part of what is already in place. It is an outrageous claim, unless of course you believe in the deal.
To finish, the third sector should seek to hold and operate to the highest standards, after all the safeguard is the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people. Given the involvement of Walmart and how both Fareshare and Trussell trust have done everything they can to spread their poor food model nationwide – it is fair that those standards have been compromised. Trying to remain somewhat fair, if the £20m the two organisations have now secured is used to;-
1. Make sure people have access to good fresh food by choice
2. Make sure no waste is passed on to community groups at their cost. Taking in only the food that can be used, leaving ASDA with costs of the rest and holding them to account and;
3. Make sure that volunteers get jobs, rather than just create more volunteer roles to roll out more food banks or distribution units
Then maybe, just maybe, there will be some good reason for this deal. But our experience of working with and watching Trussell and Fareshare operate is that the opposite will roll out – lets all wait and see eh?
It was useful to see IFAN stand their ground and raise their concerns. Now the door is open for others to follow. More importantly, it will be very interesting to see who over time buys in with the offer of some of the benefits of the £20m. In the long run, if many of the current food poverty entities do, the integrity of the sector will be threatened and the big losers will be the people hungry and still forced to take poor food handouts.
As we said in our last blog, there are already options and stronger routes to stopping hunger, let’s see what happens next?