This week I read a newspaper article that really concerned me. A business man in the UK opened a supermarket specifically targeted at people experiencing poverty. His rational was that he had seen how many people were using food banks in his country of origin and thought that there was a business in selling very cheap food to those who struggle to pay for their basic needs and was specifically marketing his business to those on social welfare and on so called ‘zero hours’ contracts. What concerns me about this is a number of things. Firstly, that rather than try and address issues of poverty and social injustice and end them, this business looks to market to people in those situations. Secondly, saying that food banks were the inspiration behind the business model, negates the place food banks have in being a point of contact with many people experiencing poverty and exclusion and as being entry points in wider social inclusion programmes. Thirdly, poverty is now a business and people experiencing poverty a market to be targeted. It can seem that poverty is so ‘normal’ and expected now that it is a market to be exploited rather than a structural problem to be changed.
Is this the way we want our societies to go? Poverty marketing? What we saw last week with the Eurodiaconia Award was a completely different way. We saw projects and services working with all the needs of the person and ensuring their dignity, care, support and empowerment.
Part of me wonders if this supermarket idea was really a marketing gimmick rather than a long term business decision. But whatever it is, we need to work to ensure that poverty and the people who experience poverty are not a market to be exploited but a challenge that our entire society in Europe must be committed to ending.
Have a good weekend,