Food banks scandal must end

Do we really need food banks in this day and age?

Do we really need food banks in this day and age? - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Liz Nice asks ‘why are we handing out hundreds of thousands of food parcels?’

Fairness is something I have been thinking about a lot this week after I heard the Everton manager Roberto Martinez speak so beautifully and eloquently at the Hillsborough Memorial Service. “How can anyone die watching the game they love?” he said. “That isn’t right. That isn’t fair.”

After crossing Stanley Park to show the solidarity of the entire city of Liverpool with the Hillsborough families, he moved many people to tears when he added, simply but with such great resonance, “what happened afterwards wasn’t fair either.”

With those few words he encapsulated the anguish and struggle of the 25-year battle those families have endured to be listened to by successive governments who time after time made it clear that they didn’t want to know.

It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. And what’s even more alarming is that nearly everybody knew it, yet still nothing was done.

We are brought up to believe that fairness is a concept we can count on.

When my children fight over a toy, the youngest one, aged five, will be filled with righteous indignation if he loses out.

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“It’s not fair for me!” he will cry in fury. “It’s so not fair for me!”

Somewhere along the line he has got the impression that fairness is…a thing. Something to be observed and relied upon. I don’t want him to grow up and discover that fairness is in actual fact just something we teach our kids, then have to unlearn, a little bit at a time, the older we get. But that is the case now, isn’t it?

Just look at the Daily Mirror’s front page this morning. We are the sixth largest economy in the world. We have more millionaires than ever before. So why have we handed out one million food parcels?

The answer, according to one delightful national newspaper, lies in ‘poverty of ambition’ but of course this is nonsense. In order to visit a food bank, you have to be referred by a care professional. It’s not a vast swathe of greedy people looking for a freebie. Shame on anyone who ever thought it was.

It’s about benefit cuts and sanctions – leaving people waiting month after month while their cases are reviewed. What are they supposed to eat in the meantime? And does anybody care?

It’s about the rising cost of food and the corresponding diminution of wages. It’s about desperation. It’s about need. And yes, it’s also about shame.

Nobody wants to visit a food bank. Nobody should have to. There is more than enough food in this country for everyone; it’s just that we seem to have forgotten the word I use on my sons every single day. The word every other parent I know uses, yet as a country, a word we seem to have forgotten: Share!

No one should be hungry in Britain in the 21st century. Whatever the reasons, to paraphrase my son: It’s not fair for them. It’s so not fair for them.