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Stockpiles and food banks

Stockpiles and food banks

Hannah Rich discusses the reality of relying on stockpiling and food parcels in the face of political and financial crises. 25/07/2018

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This week, the government announced that, in the event of a no deal Brexit, plans are in place to ensure there is ‘adequate food‘ for the country. It seems we may find ourselves needing to stockpile food if the jigsaw of trade deals cannot be put together in time, or at all.

This has drawn panic from some people; the idea that in 2018, we might as a country be relying on warehouses and stores of food and medicine to keep us going seems absurd. Some commentators on social media have reacted with a sort of Blitz spirit, talking about the possibility of stockpiles with an almost nostalgic sort of gung–ho ‘it’ll be alright’ enthusiasm. Others have mocked the widespread panic, pointing out that if we can’t survive Brexit and an exceptionally hot summer, we would not have likely coped with two world wars the way our parents and grandparents did.

Contrast this with the growing demand for food banks in recent years. In the financial year 2017–18, over 1.3 million three–day emergency food supply parcels were distributed by Trussell Trust food bank, representing a 13% increase on the previous year. A third of these went to children.

The image of warehouse shelves lined with tinned food and dried pasta may seem almost ludicrous when posed as a policy proposal for the general population, but it is already a familiar sight for those who benefit from and volunteer at food banks. In the course of the GRACE project, I have seen churches offering food banks of all sorts and scales, from a couple of plastic boxes for those who need them right up to a fully stocked warehouse  operation feeding hundreds of families a month. The reality is that as in–work poverty grows, those who rely on food banks are increasingly likely to be employed, often in precarious and low paid jobs. The same is true of homelessness – a Shelter report released this week found that more than half of families living in temporary accommodation are in work.

Brexit may have brought the idea of relying on stockpiling and food parcels closer to home for the average person but irrespective of our relationship with the EU, the numbers of people reliant on food collected and distributed in emergency supplies does not appear to be declining any time soon. The notion of stockpiling arising from political crises simply makes what is already a reality for thousands of people feel like a universal possibility.

 Image by Dover Air force under a Creative Commons license.

Hannah Rich

Hannah Rich

Hannah joined Theos in 2017. She is a senior researcher working on theology and economic inequality. She is the author of ‘A Torn Safety Net’ (2022).

Watch, listen to or read more from Hannah Rich

Posted 25 July 2018

Brexit, Charity, GRA:CE Project, Politics, Poverty


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