Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Food banks and inequality ‘Food banks are the safety net of safety nets. It is only when government fails that food banks have to step in… They are not a substitute for social policies that protect people’ - Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, speaking in London recently, cited by Patrick Butler. De Schutter said that widening economic and geographic inequalities in western countries such as the UK were reinforcing the existence in deprived neighbourhoods of ‘food deserts’ – places with few shops and where cheap, healthy produce was hard to come by. The question arises in this context, is it morally defensible for a government to adopt policies that demonstrably increase economic inequalities to exacerbate the situation? I find it hard to think of anything more offensive right now. As far as I can tell, the Guardian is the only major news broadcaster to cover this story – presumably the other sources do not regard it as important. Meanwhile, I find it curious that this government – usually so determinedly disinterested in evidence of any kind – has initiated research which ‘will examine the extent and effectiveness of emergency food aid, amid concern that increasing numbers of low-paid and benefit-dependent households are forced to use charity food sources’. So they’ve spotted that there is ‘concern’, well done there. I can find no reference to the inquiry on the Defra site so far. I suspect they’re cautiously checking the morality of applying the ‘big society’ brand in this case (seriously: see the first 30 secs here).

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