Sunday, 16 October 2011

Food, Glorious Food - if you have enough...

So many things I could write on the subject of food... but it would be a wasted opportunity if I didn't write about something close to my heart.

What comes immediately to mind when you think of when I write 'hunger'?

There's a good chance it's an image of a child in a third-world country, whose family don't have enough to eat  through economic deprivation or dispossession through war. We've all seen these images on the TV over the years, and many of us have been moved to help in one way or another - the Live Aid campaign in 1985 was probably the first occasion that deprivation in African countries was brought to the world's attention in such a high-profile way, and many millions of pounds were given in aid as a result.

But I want to write about hunger closer to home.

Did you know that 13 million people live below the poverty line in the UK? (Source: Families, often through no fault of their own, live with their finances on a knife-edge, and it takes no more than a sudden bill or small crisis, an unexpected cold spell or relationship breakdown to throw things completely off-balance and leave them struggling to buy food.

These people are not scratching a living in fields in a foreign country. They're on our doorstep.

These families are not a few thousand miles away in an arid desert, plagued by mosquitoes. They're living in our towns and cities, their children go to the same schools as ours, they shop in the same supermarkets.

At least, they do when they have the money.

Often, all that's needed is a short-term helping hand. A few days' supplies can bridge the gap until the next wage packet or benefit payment; can keep things going until more permanent help can be arranged.

There's an organisation in the UK which has a mission to help these people. The Trussell Trust runs a scheme called Foodbank. Replicated in around 100 sites around the country, Foodbanks are run by groups of local volunteers, usually based in churches. They receive and store donations of non-perishable food, and make them available in 3-day parcels for needy families in crisis who are referred to them by other local agencies. Recipients of the parcels also receive advice and signposting to agencies who can provide more systemic aid and help them get back on their feet.

In 2010, over 60 thousand people were helped by Foodbank. That's 60 thousand people who were helped through a hunger crisis. People who live in our towns and cities.

The Foodbank centres rely on one thing - food. Everything they give is donated, mostly by individuals and families who put a few extra cans and jars in their weekly or monthly shopping and drop them off at the Foodbank centre.

So here's my challenge for Blog Action Day - could you afford to buy an extra can of mince, a packet of rice, some tinned fruit or a bag of pasta? If so, could you do this every week? Why not find your nearest Foodbank on the Trussell Trust website, drop in or give them a call to find out what they're most in need of right now, and start helping those close by.

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