How can it be OK to have thousands reliant on food banks?

COMMENT: Not being able to make ends meet is not a failure of an individual. It is a collective failure

Friday, 22nd July

Food bank

‘There is no shame in asking or receiving help with anything, but especially the cost of food’

IT felt like a new low back in 2017 when schools began for the first time pleading for donations from parents to help pay for basics like pens and paper.

Children at one primary in Camden were given empty Smarties tubes and asked to come back after the Easter holidays with them filled up with 20 pence pieces.

It was all part of David Cameron’s Big Society – or was that Big Austerity? – of squeezing the public for help when the State would not.

Fast-forward five years and now we have a situation where every parent in a primary school cannot afford the cost of a new uniform.

When they pick up their kids they are also taking home bags of groceries. This is the real legacy that Boris Johnson will leave behind at the end of his long-drawn departure.

The front page this week might be a depressing read. But we are not going to stop writing about hunger in Camden. In any event, food poverty is so widespread it is impossible to ignore.

We will all have noticed the price rises in the supermarkets – 50p here; 30p there. Often, quite deceptively, the weights of packages are shrinking.

The “cost of living crisis” is a crushingly placid phrase, considering what is actually going on, and there is a lot of hot air in the media about it.

But the reality is that politicians – certainly judging by the dismal Conservative leadership TV debates – employers and supermarkets (many still making vast profit) will not make a meaningful intervention.

Thousands of children in Camden are already now relying on official food banks for meals each week. And the demand will rise when the energy bills go up in the autumn.

Charities like St Pancras Welfare Trust should be applauded for stepping up to the plate. But it is a national disgrace that they need to.

During the peak of Covid, the New Journal delivered thousands of meals to people across the borough.

We saw what it meant to people and, after the Russia invasion in Ukraine, it was not long before our journalist Dan Carrier was setting off in a van filled with supplies.

Food aid can be a soulful and soothing exchange for both the providers and those provided for.

We are not naming the primary school this week out of respect to the parents, children and staff. But at the same time we say there is no shame in asking or receiving help with anything, but especially the cost of food.

Not being able to make ends meet is not a failure of an individual. It is a collective failure, and one that whoever is next prime minister needs to urgently address.

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