Tuesday 13 November 2018

Food banks are

important and an unfortunately necessary part of life today. Please don't misunderstand my support for them.
There was however a news item yesterday which suggested that the government was cutting support for them. This is wrong. The same amount of money is there. It is just being divided between the various organisations in a different way.
I have been advised that the idea behind this was "to ensure that  more people in ethnically diverse communities across a greater geographic area can be serviced". In other words the idea is to try and help more people, some of whom live in areas where there is no service.
It didn't make any difference of course. The people who run the largest service cried "cuts" and then the media screamed "cuts" and more people got in on the act.
I know people who work at two different food banks. They have called on me to give people "communication assistance" at times... the sort of "s/he needs some help with a form" sort of assistance when someone can't read and write.  I've heard some appalling stories of abuse and deprivation. 
There are people out there who need help - need it through no fault of their own. They are ill, have had an accident, been laid off, had a house fire and so on. There are others who should not need it but they have partners who gamble, drink, take drugs and have committed acts which have landed them in prison.  None of it is good. 
It is why I put items in the Senior Cat's walker every Sunday morning and he puts them in the box in the narthex of the church he attends. It is why I stop at the local charity shop and, in a quiet back room, I'll help someone fill out the endless government forms needed before they can get proper assistance. 
And no, it isn't "good" of me because I know it could easily be me looking for that assistance. It could happen to anyone. It frightens me.
I remember the story I was told about the young children who went to their local food bank, something they had never used before. They asked if they could have some milk because the eldest couldn't use their mother's card to buy some. Someone went around to the house to find out what was going on. Their mother was in bed with the sort of migraine which meant she was unable to care for the children. They were doing the best they could to care for themselves - and doing a very good job of it -  but they needed some help. The food bank staff saw to it that they got the help they needed, including the milk. Some time later their mother took them there again - to "return the milk". 
That is what food banks should be about.
So yes, I am concerned if the "cuts" mean a cut to the service but to simply say that the funding has been cut when it has been redistributed is wrong. 
Perhaps what the media should be saying at this time of the year is something along the lines of "the need is so great that the government has decided to redistribute the available money and your help is needed, help as volunteers as well as in donations". It would surely help if people were made more aware of who uses food banks and why people need to use them.
The media story was not helpful. It will have left too many people thinking that the food bank is somehow "the government's responsibility and they don't care". 
It's our responsibility and we need to care. 

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