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No money for food? Why the hungry rely on food banks

Food donation box

We’ve all cut back on the shopping but could you imagine only being able to afford one meal per day or relying on charitable donations to feed your family? This was the startling reality of a BBC documentary on food banks.

Did you watch the BBC food banks documentary – Britain’s Hidden Hungry – on Tuesday evening? The programme followed several people who have to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families. Well, thanks to the food bank, they don’t have to make that choice.

The documentary went behind the scenes to share the stories of families who go without food. One parent skipped meals so their children could eat, a mother hadn’t eaten for two days and walked miles to a food bank, and a full-time student survived on one meal a day.

Food banks feeding the hungry

There are currently 250 food banks in the UK. Last year, The Trussell Trust, the charity who runs food banks, fed 128,687 people nationwide – 100% more than the previous year. And the numbers are rising.

The rise in basic living

Until watching Britain’s Hidden Hungry I hadn’t truly grasped how close to home food poverty is for some families. We have all seen our pockets squeezed. The cost of the basics is rising – food, electricity, heating, fuel – all the things we need just to survive are becoming harder to afford. And many are taking desperate measures to cut back.

Many of you have told us that you cut back on food when money is tight. In our most recent Quarterly Consumer report, 43% of you told us that you’ve reduced spending on food in order to manage your household budget. And 75% of you told us the food prices are one of your biggest financial concerns.

But what happens in extreme circumstances when we have to choose between the basics? Would you find it easier to go to an anonymous food bank or ask friends/family to help you by providing you with food? Have you ever had to make significant changes to your food planning just to afford basic groceries?


Frankly – I am waiting for the riots to start – In my very slum school in a very slum part of London – free breakfasts are becoming normal – The families cannot afford £1000 a month for rent and eat – Similarly for the OAPs. It disgusts me.

It sounds as if Dickens would find just about as much material for his books nowadays as he did in his own time. I guess there is no need to elaborate on how sad, to say the least, our society is. In this very Which? Conversation we have Anna Soubry talking about fighting obesity and Rachel Blain talking about fighting quasi starvation, here in this country. Please, sir, I want some more… from all of us.

I can’t honestly say which I would find more humiliating, begging food from my family or from the food bank. I hope I never have to find out.

I’d certainly have no qualms about using a food bank if it came down to it, but I’d cancel my internet first. I guess if I was that desperate the extra pound a day wouldn’t do much to help, but if you go to the Co-op at just the right time it will buy you at least one ‘instant’ meal a day.

Interesting programme, the only one I felt sorry for was the 21 year old. All the others seem to have inflicted poverty on themselves. Just because you can make babies doesn’t mean you should. Why aren’t people putting something aside before having kids? Do people not know just how expensive kids can be.

In and out of low paid work all his life and yet he has 2 kids, I was in full time work for over 25 years and still on had one child. And that one child cost me over £150k getting her from 4 to 18. (not including presents, food, rent/mortgage and utility bills and these were additional). I h8 the CSA

The 21 yr old paints something of a
sob story…. not entirely credible

Re the food bank programme shown
on the beeb, it’s possible to subsist on ONE
meal a day as per memoirs of Professor
Northcote Parkinson, of Raffles’ chair in
history… was to say that he used to, as to
his undergraduate days at Cambridge.

100 gm of animal protein a day is quite
enough, we eat much too much and
of the wrong variety anyway.

‘ Let them eat cakes’ (Marie Antoinette)

Was it an enlarged Chocolate
Gateau that I saw handed out
for a birthday that never was.

There seems to be some doubt as to whether Marie Antoinette ever actually said “Let them eat cake”, but what is certain is that if she did say it, it wasn’t original.

It had already been attributed to two of Louis XV’s daughters, Madame Sophie and Madame Victoire, and before that to Marie-Thérèse, a Spanish princess who married Louis XIV in the 1660s. However the original saying appears to be “‘Why don’t they eat meat?”, uttered by the Chinese Emperor H*i of Jin when he was informed that the peasants had no rice to eat.

I love Wikipedia.

It is obvious from many of the replies – they have never ever starved – shades of the middle class -. In a first world country as this is – For ANYONE to starve is disgusting.

For those of you how think poverty is self inflicted – you haven’t a clue – Children are now starving HERE – it is certainly NOT their fault – but because their carer or parent HAS LOST THEIR JOB and can’t get another. If you don’t believe me – move to a very slum area of London – They starve.

Incidentally – during WW2 I starved while trying to get to England – It wasn’t self inflicted nor nice. Many people died. But does mean that I have empathy for such people.

And this is the condition inflicted by the present “government” – disgusting

By self inflected I mean drop kids until you can’t afford to save for the future and then when something bad happens, you’re stuffed. I’ve been unemployed over 2 years no benefits and I’m not not starving. Its all about prudent planning and not going with the spend spend world that all the ads are tempting people with. Hence self inflicted. If I want something I wait until I’ve saved up. I still don’t have a mobile phone or flat screen TV, I don’t smoke or drink or do drugs. And I don’t have 5 kids.

You’ve been unemployed for two years and claimed no benefits but if you want something you save for it. I assume this means that you do in fact have some form of income?

Not now I don’t, I just go without or use my ever dimensioning savings. When I had a job I would save. I’ve always wanted double glazing but never felt secure in my job (of 21 years) enough to spend £3k on it.

I would like to ask all the people in London who say they and their children are starving because the breadwinner has lost their job how they do spend what they get. I am 76 years old and when our family was young we were always hard up and I did go without food at times
1) do you smoke or ever drink alcohol, I did not as food and rent came first. I learned to make the children’s and my clothes from cast offs and second hand school uniforms. I bought the cheapest cuts of meat grew veg, often failed and could make a 3 lb chicken do 3 meals for seven of us by boiling up the giblets and carcass picking the meat out to use with pasta and made soup. I learned the “parsons nose” was the tastiest bit of the bird, still always buy goods at the end of their use by or sell by date, buying reduced meat and food in season and from street markets.
We always turn lights of and have gradually bought LED bulbs as others failed. LED’s cost very little to run.
I never put the heating on until 30 mins before the kids came home from school and made sure that I was home when my children came home from school.
In the 60’s and 70’s it was considered antisocial to do more than reproduce yourselves because of rising world population so we fostered and adopted. Fostering rates in those days nowhere near covered the cost of keeping a child where we lived in the home counties as the local authority rates did not cover costs & never gave you London rates or what they promised if you took in extra children and did not have enough spare clothing for them. We could not afford to adopt our girls as we had already adopted one child but they are still our daughters treated exactly as we do our natural children and they have done well in life.
We made or did up toys for Christmas and birthdays and I made extra to sell to pay for Christmas and we always camped for holidays. The London LA we fostered for is still as troubled as ever gave no support and still has child death scandals that make headlines. I studied when the children went to secondary school as I had few qualifications and was lucky to get a grant for a 4 year a full Social Work qualification. Often despised for this from the ignorant. We stuck together at times of discord because we had to and are still married moving to a sheltered flat so we will never go into a home. No holidays abroad. I am not showing off and no longer have a religious faith just stating facts and consider myself lucky to have survived the Blitz. A hard sometimes but good life. I am lucky!

It is interesting that one of the other current Conversations is “Hungry for a five star hotel breakfast”. In past centuries we could blame the rich for exploiting the poor. While that still happens, the situation is now much more complex.

It is easy to blame the government, but extreme hardship has existed when all the major parties have been in power. We must support people with problems but also work hard to ensure that fewer people get into financial difficulty. It really worries me that many people who are in employment have a lifestyle supported by credit cards, overdrafts and hire purchase – when they should be less extravagant and actually saving for a rainy day. If they become unemployed or ill and unable to work, they could quickly get into a difficult and stressful state.

I feel sorry for the kids who have stressed parents in a state of extreme hardship. Their parents may or may not have been at fault, but the kids are innocent victims.