Big society and food banks can get in the bin

‘Big Society’ Can Get in the Bin (and Food Banks While You’re There)

Gavin Wren Food Opinion Pieces, Writing

Big society and food banks can get in the bin

This morning, there’s an article in the Guardian about the government’s new scheme to push yet more public services out to charities, businesses and civil society, to help build stronger communities.

They want these groups to work together and provide support for issues such as loneliness, homelessness and online safety. Oh, and libraries. The problem is, Theresa darling, that people face these problems in the first place due to a lack of money personally or rescinded funding in the local community. Asking voluntary groups to provide service means even more people need to give up their precious spare time to help run facilities which are traditionally state funded.

It’s hard enough trying to earn money and have a personal life without being expected to work for free on the side. It’s just the further push of the Conservative agenda that seems to be predicated on leaving everything to other people to sort out. Just look at Jimbo Cameron for the epitome of this belief, dropping his Brexit timebomb like an incendiary mic drop before promptly leaving the building.

Just look at Jimbo Cameron for the epitome of this belief, dropping his Brexit timebomb like an incendiary mic drop before promptly leaving the building.

Take the examples of Libraries. Under these plans, libraries could become charities, community projects. I can imagine it now, these decrepit old places with torn books and staffed by volunteers except for a chronically overworked and underpaid manager who does it simply because they cannot bear the thought of a community without access to free books. Nobody is empowered.

Meanwhile, those with access to the massive amounts of money or lending which are needed to puruse higher education can drop into their campus library and access a wealth of literature at vast cost. Therefore however you look at it, our ability to access a free supply of books to expand our knowledge is getting hacked away piecemeal, from the exorbitant financialisation of education to the idea of charity run libraries.

How about the Commons Library, let’s get some retirees gumming digestives with milky cuppas to run that one, shall we? Of course not, because that’s pivotal to the running of government, but surely, so is every single person in the population? Whilst I accept capitalism and understand that in a capitalist society there will always be fluctuating levels of privilege and access between individuals, there also needs to be a baseline of support coming centrally from our elected government which doesn’t get breached or allow anyone to fall below.


It’s basic human rights. For example, people have the right to a sustainable food source — sustainable in this case is not the environmental kind, but the sense that they will still have access to it tomorrow, and the day after, et cetera. Food banks never meet that criteria, because they provide three days worth of food, three times a year. That is not a sustainable food source, it’s emergency food aid. It’s equivalent to flying in pallets of grain to famine stricken countries, because there is one commonality between famine and food banks, that there is plenty of food within the country afflicted. See Amartya Sen’s canonical book Poverty and Famines to explore this further, perhaps I might send a copy to government along with the book Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton.

The problem has always been access, hence, making more of our public services run by business who inevitably need to charge for the services will likely reduce access by increasing costs or reducing the quality of the service provided to the bare bones. Either way, the ability to access the service is diminished.

Meanwhile, these cuts are backed by a government that is pulling employees into it’s ranks quickly as it prepares for the Brexit Brainfart. DEFRA alone has ballooned in size as the task of re-ordering our ability to feed ourselves has taken on unparalleled urgency, as the country faces disruption to it’s food supplies unseen since WW1. Back then, an arrogant reliance on our empire saw even greater quantities of food imported until the battleships began to bombard our supply lines and the UK became devoid of food. It’s not dissimilar now, or in the case of fruit, we import 84% of it, so if supply lines get disrupted we’re gonna see our five-a-day go up in flames. Taking back control, eh?

The simple point is that this government is headed at full speed into a neoliberal privatisation of everything that moves, including poverty. Privatising poverty, I mean, it takes a special kind of c-word to do that, doesn’t it? I mean special type of capitalist, obviously.


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