Thursday

More and less: food banks

In true 'Brit-abroad' fashion I'm putting together some 'essential' items for my month long trip to Florida this Saturday. So far: a couple of mini Christmas puddings, a small slab of iced Christmas cake, bags of my Natco Indian spicy tea and a packet of sage and onion stuffing mix for my 'easy-peasy' stuffing. This involves the very basic skills of making up the mix according to the instructions on the box, letting it cool slightly, then mixing it with the meat from a few skinned pork sausages and a knob of butter. Bake that for 35 minutes until it has a nice crispy topping. Food snobs desist. No sweated over, hand-made stuffing can beat this. I've tried drifts, litters and sounders of home-made pork stuffing recipes and always go back to 'easy-peasy'. And everyone I've ever cooked it for loves it too. 

Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about food packed for a long journey.

I am grateful for my life that allows me to make a trip like this. A gratitude that deepens when I read about, and witness, the conditions and circumstances that some people are struggling with. Can you imagine not having enough money to feed your kids properly? I try, but feel sure I get nowhere near to the levels of distress and fear. 

I'm thinking particularly about food because of the number of food banks opening in the country and some of the disturbing media coverage, like Brendan O'Neill's comments in 'What's fuelling the food-bank frenzy?' in The Telegraph last month: "Today’s food banks are not fuelled by the needs of the poor so much as by the needs of charities and campaigners." Then there are the inflammatory, and unfortunately sometimes accurate, reports of misuse - scroungers and con-men - and the politicisation of the subject by Left and Right which can obscure the facts and genuine need.

Yes, some people do charity work for their own glory. Yes, some people are gutter-rats who will abuse any system for their own greedy benefit. And yes, so many politicians use social issues to blow their own trumpets and attack their opponents. But let's bypass all that and and step into these people's lives.

You're out of work following a bad car accident. You've lost your wife. Money's tight but you've always managed to pay your bills. But your child is going to a new school. You have to buy a uniform, a gym-kit. You do it, cover your monthly expenses too, but you now have £7 left to feed yourself and your child for the next three weeks.

Or, you've been made redundant. Your debts are growing. There's the threat of bailiffs. You watch your child eating toast, again, because a couple of loaves of bread is all you've been able to buy with the change in your purse.

You're elderly, you've been living alone in your two bedroom flat for years but the bedroom tax has cut your benefits. When you meet the woman from the food bank you confess you've been sharing cereal with your dog for a couple of months. 

I haven't invented these stories. I wish I had. 

Food = life. It's that simple. And do you know what's even more simple for those of us who have 'more'? Let's make do with less and give to people who really do need more. And at this time of the year when, let's be honest, so many of us spend more money than we need to, buy more than we can really eat, we could easily put aside some things and donate them to our local food bank, or even give the money we would have spent on them to a food bank so they can use it in the best possible way for the people in need that they are really helping. 

Food = life. It's that simple. I can't say more. 


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