There is a certain controversy over the rise of food banks and their usage in Britain today. Some say that it's a symptom of the austerity, the cuts (insert evil Tories to taste here). But as we've mentioned before there is an alternative explanation possible, which is that food banks are a new technology. That is, it's not that we have more food poverty that needs alleviating, but that we've found a new method of alleviating food poverty.
We find ourselves very definitely leaning toward that second explanation:
There are at least 2,000 food banks operating in the UK, giving out emergency food parcels on a weekly basis to people in hardship, according to research that shines fresh light on the rapid growth of charity food provision in austerity Britain.
The research complements established information on UK food bank use compiled by the Trussell Trust, Britain’s biggest food bank network, which collects extensive data from its members and recently reported that it gave out a record 1.2m food parcels to families and individuals in need in 2016-17, the ninth successive year in which demand had risen.
Emerging results from the mapping project undertaken by the Independent Food Aid Network (Ifan), confirm that the Trussell figures represent only a partial picture of the scale of organised food bank provision, and suggest that the level of food bank use is far greater than headline figures indicate.
That is, we don't think this is a reflection of demand rising, rather a result of ability to supply increasing. That Ifan report is here:
Ultimately we would like to see national monitoring of household food insecurity as part of an effort to stop the normalisation of emergency food aid provision within the UK.
That strikes us as a very odd goal indeed. We would, obviously, like people with no food to be provided with food. So why would we want to stop the normalisation of foodless people being provided with food?
Food banks have been around for a while in the US (and Portugal, to the certain knowledge of one of us) and have really only started expanding in the UK in the last 10 to 15 years. And we also know absolutely, from personal experience again, that the State has always been capricious and inefficient in providing benefits and subsidies to those who need them. Our reading of this is therefore that what we're seeing is the spread of a new supply technology.
There are indeed many more food banks serving many more people today. Something which we think is rather glorious, as those little platoons roll out the voluntary solution to the caprice and inefficiency of the State.
Why would we be against community alleviating poverty and want?