Corona Virus: Feeding good people well, unless you are a distorter of the truth

About Can Cook:

We reached our 13th birthday last month. 13 years ago, we set out to put good food into every home we could, with a particular focus on those in poverty.

We are a food producer and have always campaigned.

13 years on, as a food producer we have:

  • Created our own range of meals to sell
  • Created a sustainable business model that caters for schools, nurseries, and care homes

As campaigners, we have:

  • Worked with every part of the community to train people to cook; in homes, nurseries, schools, community centres, care homes and prisons – to name a few.
  • Collectively taught over 15,000 people to cook.
  • Opened pop-up shops and street food trucks.
  • Written and published various cookbooks.
  • Produced cookery, food and food poverty research.
  • Hosted numerous food poverty conferences.
  • Donated over 180,000 free fresh meals to hungry families

 

Regarding Covid-19… In the next 12-week period – We will deliver 50,000 fresh meals to vulnerable adults/children. The service will offer every person a choice of meals.

We are on the frontline every day and, we have a solution to food poverty.

All the work we do is underpinned by the following quotes:

  1. ‘The people who need to be fed the best are fed the worst’ (David Chang, Chef, entrepreneur).
  2. “I have never not eaten before and it was terrible. After the first day you think it isn’t so bad, and then you start to feel sick, like empty inside sick. And then it gets worse and worse, and you just feel hollow inside – ‘We discuss food banks at school gates like its normal’ (BBC March 2020)

When the two above quotes become irrelevant, we will stop campaigning. Until then, our campaigning will focus on feeding people good food and will target any organisation or ‘person’ who knowingly protects the supply of terrible food to vulnerable people.

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Blog – Corona Virus: Feeding good people well, unless you are a distorter of the truth

When hungry and when it’s necessary to fend off life-threatening viruses, people require a healthy diet; a diet able to satisfy their hunger, a diet that will support their immune system. Leading food policy professors noted recently in their following advice to Government – it’s important to ensure that healthy food can and will be delivered to all those who self-isolate or are quarantined. Common sense you would think, but absent from the food aid sector.

In the midst of a public health crisis; a crisis which will threaten the lives of many thousands of good people; a group most threatened will be those who are hungry and as a consequence have very little resilience to sudden illness. The size of this group will grow, as the crisis grows. The response you would expect would therefore be the supply of good food to help people cope. In this space, the Government have given a commitment to feed people during this time – more of this later.

Imagine for a moment you are the person who is describing their hunger at the start of this blog. Then imagine you are ill and told to self-isolate, but of course you can’t because you need food for you and your family. Then by breaking the rules, you show up at a food bank. At the food banks, you are offered a random selection of terrible food, food that does not hang together as meals. A tin of mushy peas here, a packet of instant noodles/jar of sauce there… and you are told it is nutritiously balanced.

Try and imagine how you would feel. You are hungry, you have the virus and you are having to beg for terrible food to feed you and you are being lied to about the health benefits of the food given. This will happen to tens of thousands of good people and as unemployment climbs, hundreds of thousands more good people will fall into the scope of food aid. And where is the plan for a good-food-offer? Nowhere to be seen. In any other industry this would be seen as an abject failure and those responsible would be out. Not in food aid, those who got us here are still here and those who got us here with their right-wing charity modelling are intending to stay – they are nothing more than social-populists.

We are, in part, a frontline food-aid organisation. The supply of good fresh meals defines our approach. When we deliver to hungry people, they receive nutritious meals they would pick for themselves, if they had the money to purchase. We also make sure dietary needs are catered for. We offer the service others in food aid claim cannot be offered. We offer a service, only ever designed, with the welfare of the hungry in mind.

Locally, it’s a service ready to feed the thousands of people the Government want quarantined and working with the local authorities, we will feed them. Adapting the offer to suit local conditions, we will always start from the nutritional needs of those who find themselves isolated.

So how come we can do this and most everywhere else is crying out for more food bank food – the same food, 8 out of 10 hungry people don’t want. Is it because the food aid hierarchy has no plan for the hungry (other than asking the Government to change policy)? Of course, it is.

Is it also because the same hierarchy now have too much invested in changing nothing? Of course, it is.

This week, we saw the evidence of the Government free supply of food and a supermarket’s attempt to create their own food bank (see below) Intended for people who are vulnerable/quarantined. The Government approach is a typical food bank approach, random processed/unhealthy items; not suitable for meals. The supermarket contains fresh meat intended for meals, but no means to produce those meals. A clear influence of the food bank mentality to diet and cooking. And who has convinced the Government/supermarkets this is the food route to take – The food-aiders of course. Foodbank food delivered to people, who until very recently were paying for their own food. Now they are going to be told they are worth nothing more than a box of unhealthy goods or a slightly better box of well-meaning goods that will at best make 1 family meal and maybe cheese and ham on toast- you take the cookery test and try to produce a series of meals for you and yours from what you see below.

Well done to the food-aiders, you have done your work. You have convinced our Government and food retailers its normal to provide food bank food as a response to a national crisis. Whatever happened to public health and quality of life?

coronavirus

 

Top of the tree of those in the ears of Government/supermarkets, are FareShare and Trussell Trust. Already we have seen ASDA donating a further £5m to them both to assuage any criticism they may get from profiteering from the Covid-19 shopping rush. But will this £5m be spent on improving food for hungry people, of course not. History teaches us otherwise – their respective PR releases tell us this. These organisations are wedded to their terrible-food model, with more of the same to be pushed out. They will spend it on distorting their food facts, paying for expensive management teams and using volunteers to prop up the output of those expensive managers.

We have been told, the food aid hierarchy contains some very clever people – people who have been running organisations for a long time and are good at it. After all, look at the growth of FareShare and Trussell as examples. Really? Is it so hard to grow an organisation, if you are given £12.5m each (by Asda) to do so?  Is it so hard to grow an organisation, if, with all this money, their stock staff base is volunteers? Is it so hard to grow an organisation, if there is a constant grant tap turned on in their favour? And is it so hard to grow an organisation, if there is no pressure to change the model of delivery, even if most don’t want what model sells? What a privileged position these clever leaders are in.

The real skill would be for them to say, ‘we have spent over 10-years getting to where we are now and we know most don’t want what we have. Therefore, let’s create a plan for change. Let’s create a plan that starts with the hungry in mind. Let’s create a real food poverty plan that starts from the position of good food.

Of course, this will not happen and others who continue to sleep-walk with their involvement – others like:

Sustain

Food Ethics Council

Church Action Against Poverty

The Food Foundation and;

IFAN

Will continue to support FareShare and Trussell as the key distorters of good food facts and they will do so, just at the time hungry people require the exact opposite. It is a distortion planned and rehearsed. A distortion crafted to keep the food aid message legitimate in the minds of a largely naive, mis-informed public, politicians and the funders they continuously court.

Our approach is always based on the truth and feeding people well. When those facts are distorted or lied about, and hungry people are fed terrible food, as campaigners/ pundits, we will continue to write and challenge.

Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman puts it simply; He says, pundits must be ‘honest about dishonesty’ and put right, the actions of ‘bad faith’. The food aid movement is dishonest about the food they dole out and dishonest about their connection to the same food – this is all done in bad faith.

To highlight a number of distortions – distortions that undermine the whole food aid movement and most importantly, keep most hungry people, hungry!

  1. Trussell Trust supported by IFAN and others, state hungry people are offered ‘nutritionally-balanced’ food parcels. It’s a distortion they promote to the public/ media, and push out across food banks to unsuspecting volunteers who use it as some sort of in-house protective mantra.
  2. FareShare claim a meal for a hungry person can be made for 25p and all of free goods they receive and ‘sell on’, somehow end up as meals. Toilet rolls become meals for example. For the record, we estimate FareShare generate 12,500 tonnes of food waste each year. But does anyone care but us?

We can’t work out which of the two are the biggest distorters of the truth, but what we do know is – when facts are distorted and no longer reflect the truth, they become a lie. By the same token, when the same distortion is knowingly re-told, the reseller is a liar. Yet, apply this truth to the lies told by the Food Aid sector and dare challenge them, the best defence the sector can offer is silence, as if it makes the lie go away – it doesn’t, it just embeds the lie still further.

We have written lots on the food quality/ food recycling lies told by the food aid sector and we will no doubt write lots more. Now though, the lies they tell are even more pejorative, because in the middle of the biggest national crisis we have seen since the 2nd World War, some hungry people will be forced to eat the lies and most hungry people will be forced to go without, because of the same lies. As a result, the food aid sector is complicit in creating a ‘food-underclass’ – they know this, because the self-same-clever-people mentioned earlier, are facilitating this.

Until the next time.

Summer Holidays – A Dangerous time for Children in Poverty

Food poverty is a blight on the lives of millions of children in the UK, and the situation is getting worse. The recent Still Hungry report published by the West Cheshire Foodbank, Chester University and Oxford University, states that in the UK one in three foodbank users are children. And according to The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report – Life on a Low Income in the UK – over two million UK families exist on an inadequate income. In Liverpool alone, over 60,000 people – including up to 25,000 children – accessed food banks last year.

The Share Your Lunch campaign was launched in response to this escalating crisis. In the first instance, we aim to provide 50,000 free nutritious meals to hungry people across Merseyside. But it also hopes to address the wider issue of food poverty. We believe that if the current food aid system does not change, then food poverty will become fully institutionalised in the UK within two years. 

Our definition of food poverty is ‘people not having access (by choice) to good fresh food.’ But what does this mean for people experiencing food poverty?

In this blog we talk to Mandi Tambourini, manager of Epsom Street Community Centre, run by Nugent Care, in Bootle, Liverpool.

Epsom Street is one of the organisations in Liverpool to benefit from the #ShareYourLunch campaign.

It is a lifeline to hundreds of people who live in one of the poorest wards in Britain. As well as providing community support, the centre also functions as an unofficial food bank. And as we approach the summer holidays, they expect this situation to become more acute because many children receive their only daily meal at school.

This interview focuses on what children in food poverty experience, and how it impacts on their lives and blights their futures.

Can Cook: What does hunger look like when a child comes through the door?

Mandi: I notice that the children are very lethargic when they come in. Their concentration levels are low, and learning new skills is quite difficult because all they are thinking about is ‘I’m hungry, I need something to eat.’

It’s as if their ‘get up and go’ has got up and gone. We also find that kids get a lot more cramp and stitches.

It is because they haven’t had the sustenance to keep them going. If you haven’t had that much to eat, you aren’t willing to run around. And if your food isn’t that nutritional then it makes it much more worse.

I understand that parents would rather give their kids a packet of cheap noodles rather than not let them have anything at all. But to have that continuously doesn’t sustain what the body needs.

Where do the children eat outside of the holiday club? 

Mostly they’ll have breakfast and tea, but they’ll skip dinner. For a lot of them, it’s a case of having a late breakfast and early tea, to try and measure it out.

And they’ll just get some 9p noodles, for example, meaning cramps set in after around five days. So it has an impact on their health.

Even outside the school holidays, people think ‘They get fed in school, isn’t that great!’ But for children who live in poverty they tend not to eat all their school meals because they’re not used to having big meals. Also, they don’t want to be seen as the kid who eats everything, who gets bullied for being poor. It’s heartbreaking to think that that happens.

What change in the children do you see after they have been fed?

They are crazy dudes! We call it ‘Hypo-juice.’ We know it’s because the body is being filled up.

Around 10 to 15 minutes after we’ve given them dinner, they come up to you saying ‘Can we go outside and play football?’ whereas before lunch they can’t be bothered.

And even if we’re doing arts and crafts, they become more creative because their thought processes are there.

It’s very easy to see how a child who isn’t getting the right nutrition will be affected at school, and how it’s going to impact their future.

I believe that everybody has a gift. You may be academically bright, or it may well be that you have more of a practical gift. But if you haven’t been fed properly you haven’t got the energy to fulfil that.

So food poverty means the impact isn’t only on physical health, it impacts on mental health, and the potential to be whoever they can be, or want to be – because they haven’t got the energy to dream, or to be.

I love my city more than words can say, but I am ashamed to say that my city, in many ways, pretends it’s (food poverty) not there. It is.

If we accept it’s there and we deal with it, we will have the brightest young people that we could ever wish to have, who will achieve what they can achieve.

If we choose to ignore it, we are then impacting on the future generations of people who will be living in a poverty trap that is getting wider.

Has this situation got worse over time, and do you see it getting worse?

It has definitely got worse over the last 18 months. Three summers ago we had kids who would come in and they’d be saying: “I don’t want anything to eat, I’m alright, I’ll just have some toast.” Now they ask: “What’s for dinner? Can we have spaghetti bolognese?”

It has escalated in what they’re asking for, from snacks to full-blown meals. And also when we make more food, people want to take it home.

We don’t run a foodbank here, we think it’s too restrictive. But we keep our kitchen cupboards stocked, and the amount of people who come in and fill a carrier bag, and take what they need has risen.

Who typically comes to you for food?

A lot of people have a preconception that it’s people who are claiming benefits. It isn’t.

A lot of people who we’re supporting in here are working their 16 hours, or are on Zero Hour contracts, and they can’t quite balance their books out.

So one week they might be working nine hours, the following week they might get 12, and then they work 30. They’re getting paid by the month, but their benefits are calculated on what they worked the previous month. So they are playing catch-up with being a month behind. It’s the not-knowing what they’re going to be earning.

This is the harsh reality. It’s not about them not being able to budget properly, they are learning how to survive.

Because they say it’s a living wage. It’s not. It’s a survival wage. And it only takes something like your kid needing a new pair of shoes to push you over the edge. The cost of new shoes is the equivalent to two meals. That’s the way they look at things, that’s what we’re being told.

So that can take you from being on the breadline to being in poverty – within a matter of a two-inch growth.

We give out on average 15 food bags per week, and it’s not to the same people.

It’s a mix of some people who we’ve never seen before and in my dream of dreams hope we never see again, and some people who use the centre more frequently.

But none of them take the food for nothing, and that’s what makes it worse. If they do take some food, they want to give something back.

They’ll come in and say “Your windows look a bit dirty, I’ll be round on Wednesday and I’ll give your windows a wipe.” We never say no, because they feel the need to give it back.

They don’t want to be seen as people who scrounge. They want to be seen as people who want to give something back, and as they can’t give money, they give their time.

You’ve worked with Can Cook before. How important is that relationship?

Very important for us! It is important on two levels. One we don’t really have the staff to cook the meals. We try our best but their meals are much better than ours!

Also, they cook what the kids like. Once they did a vegetarian lasagne, and they got the kids to have a little taste and they loved it. So the children were getting fresh food, which supports everything I said about health and wellbeing, and on another level they were eating something they liked, experiencing how different food tastes when it isn’t from a tin.

They would have never tasted vegetable lasagna, or vegetarian spaghetti bolognese before. And their parents aren’t going to try it in fear it will be wasted – they can’t. So Can Cook introduces foods that many of these kids have never tried before.

 At Can Cook we believe that good food is a human right and that everybody should have access to fresh food by choice, regardless of their circumstances. We have teamed up with celebrity chef, Simon Rimmer the Liverpool Echo and other partners to launch the Share Your Lunch campaign, providing up to 50,000 free, fresh meals for hungry people in Merseyside.

You can find out more here.

You can donate to #ShareYourLunch campaign by texting ‘Share’ to 82055.

Follow us on Twitter @FoodPoverty