If Cameron was smart, he’d recapitalise the food banks

by Kevin Meagher

Britain’s food banks are doing a brisk trade. And unlike their commercial namesakes, they’re doing it without a bean of government cash.

The Trussell Trust, which runs the largest network of food banks, today reports that 913,138 adults and children were provided with food parcels last year, up from just 61,468 in 2010.

David Cameron should love food banks. Well, perhaps not love, but he should recognise their existence is proof that the Big Society, that concept we thought had been buried under 20 tonnes of concrete, has something going for it.

After all, food banks are examples of well-meaning, civic-minded people and organisations stepping up to the mark to provide a volunteer-led response to make a difference in their local communities.

In pretty much every other instance, the Big Society simply exposes the utter naiveté of ministers in glibly assuming that by removing public provision we would see a flourishing of voluntary effort instead. It hasn’t. It won’t. It never was going to.

But because of the shock value of what they do – feeding the absolute poor in one of the richest countries in the world – every time food banks are mentioned in earshot, Cameron has the good grace to squirm.

Their very existence is emblematic of all the negatives people have about him and his government: out of touch and too well-off to care about how other people are struggling to get by.

He could do something to change this though. Rather than awkwardly skirting around the fact that so many people are so cash-poor that they need to rely on the charity of volunteers to feed themselves and their kids, he could instead embrace the fact they are providing this lifeline – and that they do so with great professionalism.

But with hardly any public money. A third of councils are spending around £1.5 million a year subsidising local food banks while the Government sits on its hands. Cameron could swallow hard and cough up some government cash to ‘recapitalise’ the food banks to help support their vital work. (After all, the Trussell Trust also reports that demand is outstripping supply, with the rate at which new food banks are opening is slowing).

Cameron could also stop those clots at the Department of Work and Pensions messing about with people’s benefits claims. This causes half of all referrals to food banks. Just as ministers urge the public sector and large companies to pay their bills to small companies promptly, so, too, the state should pay legitimate benefits claims quickly.

By providing financial support and by reducing demand pressures through a more responsive benefits regime, he could, belatedly, re-position himself and do something to turn the moral outrage that food banks even exist into a practical example of what the Big Society could mean.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

Tags: , , , ,

8 Responses to “If Cameron was smart, he’d recapitalise the food banks”

  1. QuinQue says:

    The Trussel Trust numbers are highly suspect, they have been showing a 100% or more increase in usage every year, and refuse to record unique users, only total parcel distribution.

    When we have people tying to tell us that 25%+ of all UK children live in poverty you really need to look behind the stats

  2. Ex labour says:


    Absolutely agree. There are too many charities producing “reports” which are filled with misleading information and statistics. Crying wolf will eventually turn hollow.

    On my local news programme they did a feature on food banks. The first interviewee was a single mother, who complained about benefit cuts etc and the fact she had to use a food bank to “survive”. The only problem was she was interviewed in front of her 50″ flat screen £1000 TV with game consoles attached. The second interviewee was a single woman in a rural area. Asked how she got her goods, she replied that the food bank delivered, but if they couldn’t she would drive her own car to pick it up.

    Now call me cynical, but are a lot of people just milking the fact that free food is on offer?

    I think it all goes to the issue of what exactly is poverty. The canard constructed by the left is “relative poverty” which is a percentage of the average income. I have seen and worked amongst REAL poverty overseas and believe me we do not have any poverty in comparison.

    So back to our two interviewees. If they can afford large modern TVs and X-boxes are they really in poverty ? Does this make a case that benefits should be in the form of food stamps ? I would suggest that food stamps would improve the life of many including children who would benefit from having reasonable quality food rather than the latest computer game.

    Before anyone asks, yes I do donate to food banks and I hope that my donation does actually go to someone in need.

  3. swatantra says:

    We could do with QE2, ie more money being put into Food Banks ie the Govt supporting them and propping them up. They should be nationalised.

  4. Fred says:

    These are new services. Food for free is free income.

    How do these organisations determine who’s needy?

    Where are wages and benefits in real terms?

    Does this serve to keep people on dependency?

    The questions we need to ask.

  5. Tafia says:

    @ex-Labour/ I too have worked overseas and seen real poverty and worked with refugees. There is no poverty in this country save for people who would rather buy fags than buy their children food.

    Most people in this country have absolutely no idea what poverty is nor how lucky we are.

  6. In fact no matter if someone doesn’t understand then its up to other people that they will assist,
    so here it happens.

  7. Everything is very open with a very clear description of the issues.

    It was really informative. Your website is extremely
    helpful. Thank you for sharing!

  8. I believe everything wrote was very logical. However,
    what about this? suppose you composed a catchier title?

    I ain’t saying your content isn’t good, but suppose you added
    something that grabbed folk’s attention? I mean If Cameron was smart, he’d recapitalise the food banks « Labour Uncut is kinda vanilla.

    You should look at Yahoo’s front page and see how they write news titles to grab people to
    open the links. You might add a video or a related picture or two to get people excited
    about what you’ve got to say. In my opinion, it might bring your website a little bit more interesting.

Leave a Reply