Food Waste and Food Poverty: March 2015

Food Waste and Food Poverty: Notes from the Lectern

Comments made during open discussion on Food Waste & Food Poverty

The issue of Food Poverty and the administration of the benefits system are particularly difficult for people with mental health problems, who are inadequately supported. Homelessness and poverty are made worse by the practice of foreclosing and evicting people in mortgage arrears.

We should help people make contributions, even when they are in difficulty.

The lack of joining up in the world of bureaucracy causes real hard-ship (for example when there is a gap between one benefit stopping and another starting, even though there are no issues to do with entitlement).

How do we go forward? Is this for local charities or for local government?

How can we avoid the problems where considerable money is spent on researching the extent of the problems, rather than on alleviating poverty? (A specific example was given where this had happened.)

The price of fuel weighs particularly hard on the poor, where pre-payment results in them paying disproportionately higher charges. For many this means they cannot pay their way.

We need to be clear about what we (society?) are expecting charities to do.

From the perspective of someone who used to be a Welfare Rights Officer, it’s difficult to appeal if benefits are not paid under Statute. We should all be equal under the law, and need to exercise caution if moving away from a statutory framework.

There is a major question of where to draw the line between statutory and charitable provision. A Government initiative called ‘Feed Britain’ will include the establishment of Regional Committees, but this will cost. The challenge needs to be met with local input from those with local knowledge.

We shouldn’t forget that, in a few weeks time, there will be a general Election. If we want change we should exercise our vote. Consumerism has done us down. We have been concentrating on services and deficits, whereas we should be thinking of needs, skills, and talents.

We hear a lot of need but little about responsibilities. How can we educate people for well-being and resilience?

We should consider whether the issues of poverty are local or widespread. For instance across the planet, poverty has halved. The developed world has been used to constant growth, and growth can cope with (and hide) a lot of problems. But now with the slowing of growth there have been casualties. In particular developed countries have seen increasing inequality.

The solution must be local, properly funded, direct action.

And a note received after the event:

What a depressing picture of poverty and complexity.

What can we do to stop all this getting worse?

Food poverty is just the tip of an iceberg of disadvantage and deprivation. Direct local action using education working through charities is a practical if slightly backward-looking way ahead, but nothing will change unless we work hard for a more just society.