Home Blog Editor’s blog: The Sun’s luxury food article paints a very misleading picture about who is using foodbanks

Editor’s blog: The Sun’s luxury food article paints a very misleading picture about who is using foodbanks

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An article in today’s Sun was carefully written to encourage anger and shock over the Foodbank system. Headed ‘I eat quality food with no worry about cost’, it features Claure Cleland who says: “With food banks I can take my daughter to the cinema, buy cigarettes and live a normal life without panicking we may not be able to eat.”

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She also says that by using foodbanks she no longer has to buy supermarket value products.

“I couldn’t believe it when you can get top brands of jars, sauces and ceareals and even restaurant tokens in a food bank,” she is quoted as saying, added that food banks are a better option and less stressful than shopping.

The short article implies that Claire has decided to use her food bank instead of the supermarket for every shop. It doesn’t say so directly, but the implication is there.

It also makes clear from the outset that it is pandering to sterotypes by opening the article with details about Claire’s personal life: “single mother-of-one Claire gets £22,000 a year in benefits”.

With brevity comes great responsibility.

Food Banks have rules in place.

You can’t just turn up and collect food. You don’t walk round the shelves and pick something off based on what you fancy. You don’t use it instead of the supermarket. You use it because you have to – the alternative is to go without food, a basic human need.

Food can only be issued with a voucher. That voucher can only be given by care professionals, including health visitors, doctors, social workers and police. The Trussell Trust’s website states: “Foodbanks partner with a wide range of care professionals who are best placed to assess need and make sure that it is genuine.”

That voucher is then taken to the foodbank “where it can be redeemed for three days emergency food. Volunteers meet clients over a cup of tea or free hot meal and are able to signpost people to agencies able to solve the longer-term problem.”

And that food parcel contains “a minimum of three days nutritionally balanced, non-perishable food”.

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The list includes UHT milk, sugar, fruit juice, soup, pasta sauces, cereals, rice pudding, instant mash, rice or pasta, tinned meat and vegetables. It’s designed to get you by, not let you dine like kings. As a result, often the food donated may well be value ranges rather than big brands.

And to ensure the system can’t be abused, there’s a limit to the number of vouchers that can be given out: three times in a row, with the ideal being no more than three times a year.

That rule can sometimes be bent, but only in the most extreme circumstances.

A survey of Welsh foodbanks in 2012 revealed that:

  • 100% clients would have skipped meals without the foodbanks:
  • 69% would have experienced increased depression
  • 38% would have experienced strain on family relationships
  • 15% would have committed a crime [to obtain food]
  • 8% would have used a loan shark or doorstep lender

So, the Sun’s short article paints a very misleading picture of the Foodbank system. Don’t be fooled – people go to foodbanks because they are in desperate need, not so they can get some fags and watch a film.

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