It’s not the hungry who gain most from food banks – it’s big business

It’s not the hungry who gain most from food banks – it’s big business

The government is essentially subsidising firms to waste food, then redistribute it to boost their reputations. It’s grotesque.

THE GUARDIAN – Who benefits from food banks? The donors? The volunteers? The recipients? You might be surprised – and dismayed – to learn that big food corporations from around the world revel in the wonderful world of food banks.

This week, the Food Bank Leadership Institute (FBLI) annual conference takes place in London for the first time. This gathering, organised by the Chicago-based Global FoodBanking Network, has long been held at the US’s largest food bank in Houston. This year’s meeting is scheduled for a couple of days before Brexit was due to take place, the break with Europe that experts predict will increase food poverty, and hence the need for more food banks. A cursory review of the meeting agenda reveals a celebratory approach to food charity, in which the hungry are fed corporate surplus rations, such as wilted lettuce, dented tins of beans and day-old pastries that could not otherwise be sold.

This is a terrible state of affairs. Rather than rewarding, and cheering on such charity, it’s time that Britain (and the US) enact policies that render obsolete the need for food banks. Studies by food poverty researchers over many years have shown the damage to people’s dignity that using food banks causes. Yet we seem to be heading in the opposite direction.

Advocating for fundamental change is difficult when we come up against popular sentiments such as “given so many hungry people in this world, it is wicked that we waste perfectly good food”. It is hard to argue with the moral imperative of not tossing food into the bin unnecessarily. Indeed, the idea of “waste not, want not” is deeply embedded in our culture.


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