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Malvern Food Bank

It’s absolutely shocking to think that in a relatively affluent place like Malvern there are people who can’t afford to feed themselves or their families. I know there are pockets of deprivation on some of the estates and in the surrounding villages, but still, I hadn’t realised it was so bad that people were having to rely on charity to be able to eat. I associate those levels of hunger and deprivation with the developing world, not the UK with an allegedly functioning Welfare State. But a few months ago there was an article in the local newspaper saying that volunteers had just set up a food bank in Malvern, and were expecting considerable demand for their services. It’s not meant as a long term solution, but people in need can be referred to them by front-line services (GPs, nurseries, jobcentre etc) and get a voucher to exchange at the food bank for three days worth of food to tide them over the crisis.

During the week there was a programme on the BBC, The Great British Budget Menu, challenging three Michelin starred chefs to befriend people living in food poverty, and try to help them eat better on their food budget – which was sometimes as low as £1 per person per day. Absolutely appalling. The chefs looked as gobsmacked as I was, and all three of them failed to stick to the stated budgets when they went shopping for their hosts. And today there was an article in my Sunday newspaper about the proliferation of food banks across the UK. The Trussell Trust, to which the Malvern food bank is affiliated, has over 325 food banks across the country and fed nearly 350,000 people in the last year, so clearly it is a pernicious and widespread problem.

Last weekend they were set up outside Waitrose in the centre of Malvern, handing out shopping lists to the customers and asking us all to add just one extra item to our weekly shop and donate it to them. It was quite a depressing list – all tinned meat/fish, tinned veg/fruit, packets of rice, cereal etc. Nothing fresh or perishable – I suppose it would be just too difficult for a small charity to handle use-by dates and stock turnover with perishable goods. They say that they put together nutritionally balanced food parcels, though I suspect that one would have to be quite imaginative and indeed competent about cooking to turn a bag full of tins and packets into something interesting and palatable.

Like what seemed most of the other customers, I took a shopping list out of curiosity, and added an extra tin to my trolley out of a feeling of middle-class guilt. There was a letter in the local paper this week from the charity thanking us all and saying that they’d collected nearly 1000kg of food and essential toiletries in the two days they were there. On the one hand, that’s really good. But on the other, it’s extremely depressing that there is such a need for it. I wonder how many local people they are feeding and how long they expect 1000kg of stuff to last before they have to restock?

{ 4 } Comments

  1. Catharine | 16 July 2013 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    My husband and I live in a part of California where there’s a lot of wealth, but also a lot of poverty. For years we’ve been buying a can of soup or beans whenever we go grocery shopping. If it’s the holiday season, the local food bank will have a collection bin at the grocery; if it’s not, I just wait till the cans accumulate and eventually drive them over to our local food pantry.

  2. Gillian | 16 July 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Hello Catharine. It’s interesting that you’ve been thinking this way in California for a while. I think the organisers are hoping that people here will get into a similar habit and buy extra tins on a regular basis. But since it appears from its website that the foodbank is currently only open for donations for two hours a week (10:00-11:00 on Mondays and Thursdays) that’s going to be pretty inconvenient for many prospective donors, so I think for now they’ll get a better response from supermarket collections.

  3. SallyB | 17 July 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    A lot of local churches have a box for donations to the food bank

  4. pauld | 17 July 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    They also got one in Moreton-in-the-Marsh in Cotswold’s apparently.

    If we cant feed our own people we SHOULDNT be giving overseas aid to anyone, unless theres a clear short term business case to UK PLC.