The Trussell Trust (TT) and poor-food-for-poor-people:

A quick question to start:

If you are Involved in food aid –

  • Do you want to feed people well? or;
  • Feed them badly?

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.

Campaigning:   

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:

Robbie Davison

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.

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