I was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 today for the you and yours show. This very quick interview starts at about minute 29 and you can listen to it directly from the i-player here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001153x
They sent me four questions before hand:
What are food deserts?
What impact do they have on communities?
We don’t cook at home, is this the problem?
If we changed our understanding would this address the issue?
The interview was short. If I had had just a little more time, this is what I would have said:
The water laps, and even when it does not lap there is always the possibility. It comes in and overtakes. You worry when it rains and you cannot always predict the damage the rain will do.
When it happens what you have is destroyed. The water permeates and rots the foundation. The damp and disease it carries invades your body. It leaves its traces on the walls. You try to clean the muck and grime from your memories and the material objects that hold them. You think you have it all cleaned up, but then it happens again.
People ask, “Why you don’t leave the flood plain and go up the mountain?” To them, where you live is a choice. Choice is a myth, it is a privilege actually only afforded to a few.
It takes resources and stamina to go up the mountain. You are out of both. It would also mean leaving those things and people behind, whom you have come to love. Those you know you can depend upon. It doesn’t feel like there is room for everyone up the mountain. Besides, they do things differently up there. Living on the side of the mountain requires its own skills and knowledges. You don’t feel you would belong.
This is what it is like to live in poverty in the UK today. A wealthy country, where the people who have gossip in the isles of the supermarket as they choose between buying the whole salmon or the pork roast because they can practice thrift and get three meals by bulk cooking. For those who are struggling financially, the choice is much more stark–“should we get frozen pizza or the micro burgers“. A whole salmon or pork roast is not even an option as it would eat up the whole month’s food budget. What would you eat for the rest of the month. “We will get the pizza. Everyone likes pizza and it will last in the freezer until we need it.If we add a few mushrooms it is also more healthy compared to the micro burger. If we add a bit of tomato sauce it will also taste a bit better.” Pizza is self contained. It does not go to waste. It fills up your family and you can carry it home easily. This is how to practice thrift when your budget is stretched.
We need to repair our social welfare system and our community infrastructures in order to provide a defenses against the impacts of poverty on our neighbours and communities. This system acts like the flood defenses and can prevent future and further damage. But it does not repair the damage wrought by previous breaches. Nor does it help these households and communities settle on higher ground. We start by protecting but we should not stop there. Everyone deserves to be able to feel secure and to be able to define what that security looks like.
I recently wrote a piece for an online journal called Impakter making the argument that we need to do more than just admonish people to change their diets and that for those in low-income communities this change can be particularly difficult. This is the text, which initially appeared on Impakter… Continue reading →
Everyday food insecurity is more than just a lack of access to food based on income. Poverty creates a hole that has emotional and nutritional effects, as well as implications for community cohesion. Food insecurity as it intersects with poverty also materialises in places to produce landscapes where food availability and the social connections it enables are scarce (for an open-access paper see Blake 2019). Poor foodscapes contribute to vulnerabilities to the shocks associated with limited food choices, which in turn reduces the resilience of places and people by producing want, poor health, social isolation, and fear and distrust of one’s neighbours. The Food Ladders approach seeks to overcome these place-based aspects of vulnerability by developing positive engagements through food and ultimately aims to help communities become the places where people want to live, raise their children, and grow old. Continue reading →
One in every five people in the UK today are living in poverty – that is, living with a household income below 60% of the median national income when housing costs are considered. And according to recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, two thirds of children in poverty live in a working family. These rates are expected to increase sharply by 2021-22, assuming there is no change in government policy. Continue reading →