We wrote in an earlier blog about relative food poverty, the place where hidden hunger takes hold, the place where people do their best to cope, asking friends and family for short term help or often going without to cope or worse still slipping into the pernicious world of localised debt and all the sharks that circle that murky activity. Imagine if you can (and most who people who advise in these situations, can’t) the stress having to go without and also watching your children suffer as a consequence.
One article, published by New Statesman last October, highlighted the extreme measures that those in poverty had resorted to in order to acquire money as a consequence of the benefit reform. At present there are nearly 50 people on the crowdfunding website who have used the words ‘Universal Credit’ in their plea. The article goes on;-
‘In February, Heather’s home had a power cut,’ one claimants story reads, ‘As her severely asthmatic nine-year-old son requires a plugged-in nebuliser to help his breathing, Heather called an ambulance. “By 10pm my baby was sedated and being treated intravenously in intensive care,” Heather wrote on her crowdfunding page. As she was with her son in the hospital, she then missed her Jobcentre appointment. In response, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) sanctioned her, meaning she received no UC for two months.’
This is amounts to “digital begging” – good people being forced to promote their struggle to strangers in the hope that they will feel sorry enough to donate to their cause – a path crowdfunding was never intended for. A path that will be short lived as many more try the same route and or until someone cheats the digital begging system and the Mail, Sun or Telegraph get hold of the story, and we know they will be watching/waiting. It’s not going to end well and all the time desperate, good people remain and will remain the victims whichever way this part of the food poverty story plays out.
The Statesman article isn’t an atypical illustration in the media spike that has soared since the rollout of Universal Credit – each day comes a new indication of the reality that claimants face, and as the rollout continues these realities are bleak with no upside.
Thousands like Heather will turn to food banks as the welfare reform continues & unmanageable standards fail to be met. Thousands more stay silently hungry until they can afford to eat; the ‘hidden hungry’, the hungry remaining unseen and unaccounted for by the national food poverty figures gathered by independent researchers & campaigners; figures/data still, unoccupied by any national government study/statistics.
It is incumbent of us all to put pressure on our local MP’s and instruct them to challenge hunger of all kinds. If they are Conservative and in Government be relentless in the challenge laid upon them about the life-threatening crisis their callous support for the welfare bill has caused. And if they are Labour and in opposition be as relentless in challenging them to establish an alternative model, that once in Government will reform benefits and stamp out the poor food practice that holds together the current food aid system. Only then will things change and only then will good people who deserve better get what they deserve.
Our Food Poverty Track Record:-
Published a Position statement, published a report
Share Your Lunch Campaign + Share “Holiday Hunger” Campaign
30,000 free fresh meals distributed (since 2016)
Now it’s time to move on and pass the baton on – for us making sure Good Food Areas sticks is now our priority; making sure hungry people get fed well every day in every area we work.
We’ll continue to observe the spaces filled by food banks and recycled food, we hope the change we’ve so long campaigned for will appear in these two areas soon.
If you have supported the work we do, thank you. If you have been a critic of ours then please ask yourself the question, why would you not want to feed people good, fresh food? It’s time we stop designing services that feed people, but to design a service that feeds people well.
Campaigns are an underused but a very valuable tool the third sector has. Done well, they push out key messages and provide credible information and feedback that can then be used to influence those who have the power to instigate change. They are though tough to manage and should never be confused with the straight PR promotion of the organisation involved – good campaigns are designed to solve a social problem.
We set up the ‘Share’ campaign to;-
Raise awareness of the food problems people were/are facing
Supply thousands of fresh meals to people who were/are hungry and;
Draw attention to possible Good Food solutions that are available
Drawing celebrity, private and public sector support, the campaign pushed the messages of people’s hunger into areas previously hidden from the facts. It created a feedback structure that allowed people to vent their frustrations and for the first time take part in the debate. It allowed campaign partners to use their expertise to add new insights that in turn generated quite large donations which in turn enabled us to produce over 30,000 meals delivered to feed people of all ages – it was a massive and very successful effort.
Campaigns do though contain an inherent warning sign; best categorised as ‘the good, the not so good and the downright ugly’ – here was our experience…
The good comes when people get behind the message, understand the problem and want to help; thousands of good people came forward during the Share Campaigns, offering donations, offering help, giving up their Christmas day to make sure people were fed well.
The not so good came quickly, mostly from food banks making spurious emotive claims about the perceived plight of the people we were feeding; always taking the moral high ground of their clients being needier than ours, never once providing facts, hiding behind ‘we know best’ type statements. And then there was the downright ugly – people involved in the third (food) sector actually claiming that good food is not part of the solution, claiming that the only sustainable solution was the poor food options that prop up food banks. Again, no basis in fact – all emotive but all very public.
So that’s campaigns for you – vital for raising awareness, vital for raising funds and vital for raising emotions of all kinds. We have enjoyed our campaign trail/trial. We have learnt a lot about hunger, about people’s perceptions of hunger and most importantly about the impact good food has on people lives when they are in food crisis. Supplying over 30,000 free fresh meals has given a significant insight into how people are coping and what they need to move on to better circumstances. We are now going to use all that experience to make sure we shape a service that always remembers that social justice means people getting the best service possible regardless of their struggle.
Which leads me into the next part of our story; why charity is part of the problem and why problems such as food poverty require structural responses that are enterprising, using and improving existing food businesses to solve the problem by making sure hungry people have access to good food wherever they come-into-contact-with-it. The Share campaign has taught us how to do this.
At Can Cook, we’ve been catering for older people across the Liverpool City Region for almost 2 years. Our COOKED chilled meals-on-wheels service delivers fresh, delicious meals to our customers each week; providing a much-needed service for dozens of individuals across Merseyside.
As a catering provision and anti-food poverty social enterprise, Can Cook is resolute in its efforts to improve the lifestyles of older people in our region. So far we’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this goal through the provision of good food and fresh produce, and now we’ve turned to innovative technology to support us in our mission.
Along with a host of European partners, including Liverpool’s very own Red Ninja Studios, we’ve been working to co-develop ‘Cordon Gris’; an upcoming smartphone application that will assist older people in managing meal plans, their grocery budgets, food choices and preventing malnutrition.
Older people in our most deprived communities are especially at risk of malnutrition, and with over 1.3 million over 65’s suffering from malnourishment in the UK alone, it’s our collective goal to provide older people with the tools they need to improve their health and ensure access to fresher food and a better lifestyle.
Follow @CordonGris on twitter to keep updated on the app’s progress!
Austerity grabbed the UK and financiers took hold of the ‘investment’ model and that changed everything. It has meant years of real social enterprise being cut off from any sort of growth opportunity the investment model was supposed to bring…