Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Food poverty

Food poverty. At first it seems like an odd term. Is there any difference between financial poverty and food poverty? One is caused by the other after all. But, perhaps it is worth giving food poverty a name so that, like fuel poverty, the people suffering can be identified, the causes can be highlighted and a solution found.

I've just been listening to the Food Programme. It's one of those programmes that makes me not resent paying the TV Tax, sorry, the Licence Fee. This particular edition looked into food poverty - not having enough to eat, going hungry. I find it difficult to understand why some people in this country can't afford to feed themselves properly.

And that it what it comes down to, affording food. My partner and I were both on benefits - Jobseeker's Allowance - for most of 2011 so I'm used to having to shop on a tight budget. Luckily it was just us two. I'm sure if we had kids then the budget would have been stretched, especially if we had young children who needed nappies. As it was our food shopping cost around £40 a week, which is less than £1 a meal per head for 3 meals a day. We didn't eat badly by any means, and prioritised eating well over other things. We also decided on taking a daily multi-vitamin to make sure we got all the required vitamins and minerals. it may have been psychosomatic, but it felt like they made a difference.
But it's not just those on benefits that have trouble buying enough food. Individuals and families living on low incomes also struggle. That's why, even in such wealthy cities as Bath and Bristol, you can find food banks run by The Trussell TrustFoodCycle projects and other smaller and less well publicised projects.

I'm not sure whether charities are the best answer to the problem, but they're certainly a vital part of the solution as they can place themselves exactly where the problems exist. They're not without their weaknesses though, as they rely on the goodwill of volunteers and donations which aren't always available, or at least not in a steady and reliable supply.

I'm planning on 'doing my bit'. I volunteered at Oxfam when I was out of work, and although it was usually enjoyable, it was all that rewarding. So I hope to be able to volunteer at FoodCycle and/or the Food Bank in Bristol soon. It seems that in the current economic climate those that can give a little really do need to, whether it's their time or their money.

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