Confessions Of A Foodbank Employee Part 3: Why It's Right To Be Ashamed

The poverty I have seen on my drop-offs is of third world standard and we should be embarrassed that it has been allowed to happen, and ashamed that right-wing commentators believe that they highlight a fruitful society...
Publish date:
Updated on


A dissection of the Spectator piece by Isabel Hardman "Why it's Wrong To Be Ashamed Of Foodbanks" 

In this piece, Isabel Hardman believes foodbanks in the UK are a cause for celebration. I beg to differ, here are my thoughts on the piece. Key points raised by the article are in italics, my responses in bold. Unlike Isabel, I have no political agenda here. Unlike Isabel, I’ve volunteered at a foodbank for almost a year.

The very existence of food banks is taken as proof of something rotten in Britain. If Brits are queuing for charity food parcels, the state has failed. Labour MPs brim with righteous anger: they call the rise of these charitable centres a ‘scandal’. David Cameron, for his part, wishes people would stop talking about them. The political consensus is that having anyone depend on charity handouts is a disgrace.

Good opening paragraph. We all agree on this, no need to fall out is there?

But that’s not what those who use the food banks think. 

Assumptive rubbish. How can you possibly know what all people who use foodbanks think? How many drops have you done?

Nor is it an opinion shared by those who run them. 

More sweeping assumptions, how can you possibly know the opinion of everyone who runs foodbanks?

The Trussell Trust, now the biggest food bank provider, regards its growth as a sign of success. 

Erm, no they don't. Here is the most recent press release from the Trussell Trust:

‘We said in April that the increasing numbers of people turning to foodbanks should be a wake-up call to the nation, but there has been no policy response and the situation is getting worse. The level of food poverty in the UK is not acceptable. It’s scandalous and it is causing deep distress to thousands of people. The time has come for an official and in depth inquiry into the causes of food poverty and the consequent rise in the usage of foodbanks. As a nation we need to accept that something is wrong and that we need to act now to stop UK hunger getting worse.’

Does that sound like success to you?

Food banks are not soup kitchens, nor a sign of a society gone bad. 

Erm, yes they are. 

In fact, their emergence ought to be seen as a sign of how strong Britain’s social fabric is. 

No they aren't.

The real scandal, according to those who run food banks, is that that they haven’t been around for longer.


Confessions of a Foodbank Employee: Fat MPs & Their Rampant Capitalism

Confessions of a Foodbank Employee Part 2: Feckless Spivs & Filthy Sewers

Again, a massive sweeping generalisation "according to those who run food banks" - which ones? The one you visited in Salisbury? Any others?

Their existence is not a sign of poverty, but an indication that a welfare state with six million people on its books can get things wrong. 

Here we get to the crux of the article – it’s the welfare state that is the problem. It's Sure Start centres in Middlesbrough that caused the global financial meltdown, not greed. 

And poverty? Just one in five of those helped by food banks cite low income.

WRONG. According to the Trussel Trust : "It is clear that many working families are feeling the pinch from flat lining wages which are completely out of line with the spiralling costs of living" 

....and one in six mention benefit changes. 

Our foodbank went into overdrive the day the benefits system changed. Explain that.

Many of the problems food banks deal with were deeply ingrained before the downturn struck.

Maybe so, but the usage of foodbanks has tripled in the last year. Fact.

The idea of foodbanks being a symptom of the coalition government’s failure is difficult to reconcile with their history. 

Actually, it's a piece of piss to reconcile, just look at the usage since the coalition took over.

Today, the Salisbury food bank is a bustling centre in a church building. Clients munch baked beans on toast at tables with cheery gingham cloths and silk flowers. 

MUNCH baked beans? Cheery gingham cloths? I suppose Vera Lynn is singing on the wirelesss to a backdrop of huge Keep Calm posters? 

Volunteers joke and clatter about in a small kitchen area..It’s the opposite of the Dickensian image conjured by the critics. 

“Conjured by the critics”. Our foodbank is a freezing garage lockup donated by a co-operative. When I work at the foodbank I see weary volunteers, supplying food to some of the most poverty stricken and desperate people in the UK. The poverty I have seen on my drop-offs is of third world standard (yes, I have been there)

 ‘I am trying my hardest,’ she says quietly. ‘But I cannot meet the bills. It sounds pathetic, it makes me feel so ashamed.’ 

It is shameful because foodbanks ARE shameful when we are the seventh richest country in the fucking world.

When a local charity or church sets up a food bank, it connects two very important groups: those in crisis who need the food, and donors who are moved to provide it. 

Insightful stuff.

It is a striking phenomenon — of the existence of charity, rather than poverty. Those who say food banks are a scandal should visit one. And when one is established in your town, don’t weep and gnash your teeth. Just celebrate the fact that you live in a big-hearted society. 

You heard her. Celebrate.