While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.”
Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah
I nearly passed this without really taking in what it said, we get so many advertisements pushed at us that we begin to automatically ignore them and it wasn’t until leaving the shop that I noticed the focus of the advertising was local food banks. A promotional campaign to increase Tesco sales, after all in October profits were down by 92 percent, or was it a genuine act of charity to help struggling families in our community? As a cynic and a doubter in the goodness of big business I rather think it’s the former rather than the latter. Did someone in a sale promotional brain storming meeting come up with this idea not only to sell more but to promote Tesco as a compassionate and caring retailer? The idea was to get people to donate while Tesco added a 30% top up. The motivation of such an action may never be known.
This nationwide food collection is now over, it lasted only three days, so I am really thinking now that yes it was a public relations gimmick to boost sales. After all three days is a drop in the ocean and is not going to come anywhere near preventing people going hungry in our community. The next one is not until July!
According the The Thrustle Trust the idea was “to provide emergency food to local people in crisis – in partnership with Tesco and Fareshare. By donating at your local Tesco store on 27th, 28th and 29th November you can help stop people going hungry in your community. Simply pick up one of our shopping lists and donate an item or two (or more!) at your nearest store.”
The point however is not to make a judgement about Tesco one way or another but rather to question the need for charity in the sixth richest country in the world. In a just and fair society, and in the case of the UK an affluent society, should you need to donate food so you “can help stop people going hungry in your community”.
Here is the latest news concerning the increase in the number of food banks, in this case Edinburgh:
MORE than 10,000 struggling residents were forced to use Capital food banks in the past year, figures have revealed.
The statistics suggest more than four times as many people were fed by The Trussell Trust – the UK’s largest food bank provider – in 2014 than the previous year.
“The rise has been huge, and it seems to be the case right across the board,” he said.
“The major thing we have seen increasing is the number of people that have been referred to us because of their low income.
“A lot of those people are on static incomes or zero-hours contracts. There has been a huge rise in the cost of living and that’s put people under pressure.”
This is just one example of the extent of food bank use here in the UK. Latest food bank figures top 900, 000
Interesting to note that Tesco along with Argos and Homebase use zero hour contracts or near enough
Some of Britain’s biggest high street stores are paying staff as little as £19 a week on miserly short-hours contracts.
Many working for our major retailers are employed on deals guaranteeing as little as three hours of work a week, a Sunday Mirror investigation has found.
On the minimum wage of £6.31 an hour that would add up to weekly pay of just £18.93 for the minimum three hours.
And even if they work many more hours than that minimum in an average week, some employees are still entitled to just three hours worth of holiday pay when they take a week off.
The forward march of zero-hours contracts must be halted
“It’s the uncertainty that gets to me,” Shirley says, despondently. “These contracts only work one way – they don’t offer any flexibility even if you wanted it because if you turn down hours you suffer. One of the girls had her hours permanently reduced because she asked the line manager for a day off to take her child to the doctors. From that day on her card was marked”.
It is outrageous that Tesco launches a food bank donation scheme while it is they themselves and others like them that are helping to cause the problem of food poverty here in the UK: The Department of Health (England) recognises food poverty as “the inability to afford, or to have access to, food to make up a healthy diet.”
If you look at the list there is nothing very healthy or nutritious. Tins of meat, fish, peas, soup, fruit, also pasta,cooking sauces , tea, rice, coffee and UHT Milk
Nothing much if you ‘re vegetarian or vegan or on a special diet such as a diabetic. Concerning the classification of food poverty. Keep in mind that people go beyond this definition and may go entirely without food as is the case for many parents who go without so that their children do not go hungry.
We also need to consider the following questions:
Should the provision of life essentials be left to charity? Should food and other basic necessities for life be sold at a profit?
I am by no means saying that it is not good to support charities by donations to food banks, on the contrary if charities did not exist people would simply go without, but it’s not the ideal by a long shot. The ideal of course is that every member of society has enough according to his or her need, most particularly food, shelter, warmth and the means to live a fulfilling life with the money to enjoy the same pastimes hobbies and interests as everyone else. In an ethical progressive country no one should work long hours for low wages, no one who is sick or disabled should live in poverty at the mercy of a government who can reduce and even cut benefits entirely, as is the case with the vicious benefit cuts in recent years, most particularly since the coalition government weren’t elected.
Though I question Tesco’s motives I understand why the Trussell Trust Supported the supermarket’s campaign without which there would be less food available at food banks.
Please support the Trussell Trust and other charities working tirelessly supporting the under privileged in our society. But please always bear in mind that the ideal is to change the way the essentials of life are distributed. The fact that food an essential for life is sold at a profit is something that needs to change not only here but world-wide along with the other essentials of life. Frankly until we rid ourselves of capitalism, particularly in the extreme unbridled form of recent years, we will never have a fair world, people will continue to die of hunger, preventable disease, live wretched and impoverished lives struggling to get by and it can only get worse as it is doing so now as more and more people slip into poverty of varying degrees.
We have moved into an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society. We are still called upon to give aid to the beggar who finds himself in misery and agony on life’s highway. But one day, we must ask the question of whether an edifice which produces beggars must not be restructured and refurbished.
Martin Luther King, Jr
“No society has fulfilled its democratic promise if people go hungry… If some go without food they have surely been deprived of all power. The existence of hunger belies the existence of democracy.”
Frances Moore Lappe
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