Food banks are becoming institutionalised in the UK
THE CONVERSATION – I was one of 58 academics, activists and food writers who published a stark open letter warning against food banks becoming institutionalised in the UK. We believe the country is now reaching a point where “left behind people” and retailers’ “leftover food” share a symbiotic relationship. Food banks are becoming embedded within welfare provision, fuelled by corporate involvement and ultimately creating an industry of poverty.
We advocate challenging this link between food waste and food poverty. The UK has a welfare system that should be there for people in their time of need. But instead food banks – of which there are at least 2,000 across the country – are in receipt of government subsidies supporting redistribution, and fresh food is being introduced through publicly funded corporate philanthropy.
While people are certainly being helped by food banks in their moments of need, we cannot accept that they solve long-term poverty. In the US and Canada, academic Andy Fisher has highlighted that food bank institutionalisation has been politically and corporately encouraged over the last 35 years, but this has done nothing to alleviate food poverty. It has, in fact, only served corporate interest and entrenched food poverty further.
How has this happened?
For my PhD research I looked into the rise of food banks and critically examined their role as a new and emerging provider of aid for people struggling with welfare reform. My work also assessed the structural causes of food poverty associated with the Welfare Reform Act 2012, and the changing language of social security.