Food poverty is a scandal. On a continent that has more than enough to go around, no one should be hungry. But in a visit to The Trussell Trust this week I learned that it is not food waste or food shortages that are the problem, it is insufficient income to buy food that is the problem. The Trussell Trust is a Christian organisation running and supporting the largest number of Food Banks in the UK. They have given out around 1 million emergency food supplies (enough for three days) and can be found in urban and rural areas across the country. Food is not all they provide – a listening ear is often what is needed most, or signposting to other services or agencies that might help with debt, housing or legal issues. But giving people food is not enough, so the Trussell Trust has developed its social enterprise model to provide opportunities for supported volunteering, and is launching the #morethanfood campaign to see how to being much needed services together in one place so that people are given the tools and opportunities to reconcile their issues and transform their lives. Food poverty might be the starting point for the support but in many situations it is definitely not the end. And this pattern is replicated across our membership – meeting basic needs is the entry point to supporting longer and sustainable social inclusion meetings. Clotilde from our secretariat, along with some of our members, will be presenting such projects at an upcoming meeting of the European Commission and talking about how we need to find ways to meet immediate needs, long term needs and the structural inequalities that bring about those needs in the first place.
We need to get much more ambitious when it comes to addressing poverty, particularly extreme poverty. This weekend sees the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and we have released a statement calling for action to address homelessness, one of the most degrading forms of poverty. We need to see a concerted effort from policy makers and other stakeholders to work together to do more than bandage wounds but to put a spoke in the wheels of injustice (c.f. Dietrich Bonhoeffer). Yet as we continue with an economic system that prioritises wealth over fairness, growth over solidarity and reduction over investment it is hard to see how we will get the structural change needed.
But there is hope. The work done by our members and partners brings significant change to lives and communities. It is often grass roots work, accompanying people, co-creating project and opportunities that do make a difference – and bit by bit, we will work together to bring about the sustained transformation our societies need to ensure poverty, in all its forms, is close to eradication.
Have a good weekend,