Why SURPLUS food is important for feeding vulnerable people

There have been a number of arguments in the press and on social media arguing that the use of surplus food to feed food insecure people is at best only a short-term solution and at worst harmful (e.g., Caraher 2017).  I would agree that the hunger that is caused by poverty is not only not being addressed by the UK government (see Blake 2015, and a more recent update of the article published by GMPA) but in some cases is being enhanced by current government policy (e.g., a benefits system that has built in delays, draconian sanctions, programme cuts that impact on the most vulnerable). In reading the argument, however, a number of issues stand out as needing further clarification and interrogation.  Firstly, there is a lack of understanding about food surplus in terms of what it is.  Secondly, there is misconception about how food surplus becomes food for bellies as it travels through the charity sector. Thirdly, there is an overly narrow understanding of the value of surplus food both for charities and those whom they support. These issues are explored in this blog post. Continue reading

The 2015 general election and its implications for food insecurity in the UK.

On Friday, 8 May 2015 I awoke to discover that not only were we not looking forward to a new coalition government in the UK, but that the overall collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party has given the Conservative government a mandate in UK politics. While I, at an individual level, am likely to see some benefits from the strong neoliberalism that underpins this government’s ideology, I am concerned by the implications of this for the country more generally and particularly the nation’s poor. Indeed, I see a further deepening of the division between those who have and those who have not. As I will elaborate, this will mean the continued exponential growth in the numbers of people requiring emergency food assistance and increased numbers of children and elderly with inadequate food supply, which will also translate into higher rates of obesity, diet rated illness and malnutrition. These trends as they are situated within the current climate of neoliberal austerity will also mean that we, if we are to continue as a nation with social values (as opposed to only economic values) must find ways of filling the gap, not just for families but also for our communities. Continue reading

We need to talk about hunger

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If you look through the door of my pantry you will see a window into my world.  My pantry expresses my likes and dislikes and my cultural background by the presence and absence of certain goods. You will also see that in my house, we are not hungry.  I have been hungry in the past.  I plan against this by stocking up for the possibility that there might come a day when I might not have money.  It isn’t an entirely rational approach to domestic food provisioning as it is a practice that produces waste.  But, I always know where my next meal is coming from.  My household budget is shaped by my past experience of hunger.  I am sure I am not alone, but for some reason hunger is not a fashionable term these days.  What is that all about?

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An inside view: Backgardens, Greystones, Sheffield

An inside view:  Greystones, Sheffield

Back gardens of terraced houses in Sheffield, 2013

Despite being bombed in World War 2 (what some refer to as the Sheffield Blitz), Sheffield has retained large areas that are built up with terraced housing built around and prior to 1900.  From street view, these houses look like long rows of anonymous and identical dwellings.  And indeed, if you have been in one, you pretty much know what the layout of every other house on the street will be. Every couple of houses has a passage that runs between into the back garden space. Because of this, the internal spaces, those behind the street view, are, or historically were, visible to all, making a kind of private community space, which forms a stage upon which everday life is played out for neighbors to see.   Continue reading