Monday, 13 December 2010

Empty plates

More and more Britons are now so hard-up they're resorting to charity food handouts to avoid starving. Often embarr-assed and apologetic, having tried desperately to fend for themselves, they ask for the handouts to feed themselves and their children.

The number of people getting emergency food boxes has risen from 25,000 two years ago to 60,000, which includes 20,000 children. If the trend continues, by 2015 there'll be half a million people being fed.

The handouts are provided by the Trussell Trust, a charity that manages over 70 food banks around the UK.

Despite what the government says, this is a wealthy country crawling with billionaires and multi-millionaires, yet the gap between rich and poor is still widening and Rolls-Royces glide past those who don't know where the next meal's coming from.

It's no longer just the homeless who need food handouts. Now it's also working people whose incomes are so low they simply can't pay all the bills. Increasingly they're having to choose between heat, light, food and clothing because they can't afford all of them.

Parents are skipping meals to feed their children. Tiny portions are the norm, if there are any portions at all. Whether food is cheap and filling is more important than whether it's nourishing.

It's a shocking situation. And what's worse is the fact that people are less and less sympathetic to the plight of the badly-off. Just 27 per cent think the government should spend more on welfare benefits and only half think it should provide a decent standard of living for everyone.

The rest presumably think it's your own fault if you're poor and struggling to survive. You're probably poor because you've been feckless, reckless and bone-idle, so why should anyone else help you?

I despair of the selfish, hard-hearted, indifferent society I live in, where comfort and good fortune is taken for granted and the problems of the less fortunate are pushed out of sight. So few people recall that wise old saying "There but for the grace of God go I."

19 comments:

secret agent woman said...

Here, too, and it is just insane how the gap continues to widen. I don't know what causes the indifference, unless it is the fact that it is a growing problem and so people have become numb to it.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Yes, I think it's partly numbness, like the so-called "charity fatigue". But also sheer selfishness, some people simply don't care if others are suffering, they just walk by on the other side.

Wisewebwoman said...

I was broken hearted to read of two Irish 5 year olds climbing into tips to get at the food.
it is unconscionable with so much wealth in the hands of the 1%
XO
WWW

Baino said...

I don't know but I suspect that happens here. I always think it rather odd that the rich spend Christmas Day serving turkey in food shelters rather than spreading the gift over the duration of a year. The sad thing is that the poor tend to buy food that's filling and inevitably junk. It's cheaper to feed a family of four at Macdonalds than to prepare a steak and salad. The inequity is growing though and it is disturbing.

Nick said...

www - I didn't know about the Irish boys. Quite appalling, more like India than Ireland. As you say, the top 1% own an obscene amount of global wealth (about 40%) that governments are terrified of touching.

Baino - Indeed, if only they would do something for the poor every day and not just at Christmas. But that would be encouraging fecklessness of course.

grannymar said...

The Nouveaux pauvres are all around us!

Nick said...

Grannymar - They certainly are. Plenty of people who thought they were sitting pretty and then they were hit by job losses and other unexpected calamities.

Roses said...

It's appalling that in this country of great wealth there are people going without to such an extent that kids have to go skip diving.

It's a shame the co-operative movement has ground to a halt here. In times like these, banding together to create opportunities would be of such benefit. But that's too dippy hippy isn't it?

Nick said...

Roses - It's getting like something out of the third world, isn't it? You're right, the co-op movement isn't much in evidence but that's just the sort of thing we need right now.

Macy said...

It's a hidden problem Nick. We're constantly being fed horror stories about the "Welfare Cheats" living off us honest tax payers.
It's just a dust storm to cover the fact that nearly a fifth of the population of this country live below the official poverty line.

Nick said...

Macy - Precisely, for every alleged welfare cheat there are dozens of genuinely needy people who get nothing like enough help. And what about the tax cheats who're robbing the country of billions?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

The situation and attitude you describe are happening in America, too. We are rapidly becoming a Third World nation of extremely rich and extremely poor people, with a diminishing middle class. It's terribly sad to think that in this economic climate, anyone would actually blame another for his/her misfortune.

Nick said...

Heart - Yes, I know the situation in America is pretty similar. And again it's an extremely wealthy country. Just a fraction of the USA's astronomical military budget would wipe out poverty tomorrow.

conortje said...

I am hoping that this current economic disaster in Ireland will bring back some of the humanity and charity we lost during the boom years. It's heartbreaking reading those statistics and one thing's for sure it will certainly get worse before it gets better.

Nick said...

Conor - I hope so too, that at least would be something positive to come out of the crisis. Things in Britain and Ireland will certainly get worse if the two governments continue to take an axe to public spending.

e said...

Nick,

Did you ever see a BBC production on telly called "1940's House?" It took a modern British family in 2001 and had them re-live the WWII years in Britain for 9-12 weeks, including air raids and an Anderson shelter.

During that war, food and other items were rationed but people were taught how to grow fruit and veg in back gardens, mend clothes and other things, bake bread and make cheap, nutritious meals at home. Also during that time, Britain experienced 80 percent jump in prices of the little bits available due to inflation, and many were hungry, so these and other steps mattered and people pulled together. The US sent food to help before it entered the war formally. Many of these same strategies would be useful today...

Something to think about. I definitely think then the government took a huge part in setting the tone and in providing necessary information, and it should now, too.

Nick said...

e - I did indeed see the 1940s House, it was fascinating. I was actually born in 1947 when things were still pretty tough and rationing was still in force. My mum grew fruit in the garden, mended clothes and did all those other thrifty things that are now pretty unusual. If things go on as they are, we'll certainly have to relearn all those little frugalities.

I disagree about the government's role though. They should be creating jobs and maintaining public services, not telling the masses how to make do with less while the millionaires swan about in their limos.

Liz said...

Yet the homeless often fail to turn up for free food and can be ungrateful when they do! Christmas lunch (turkey and all the trimmings) was served to only about 9 people in Zac's yesterday. It's a mystery where everyone was. It was the same today with bubble and squeak - I was doing the frying! - and some people turned up their noses at it! Imagine! Bubble and squeak! Best bit of Christmas.

Food is such a basic and one which I certainly take for granted. I can't imagine what it must be like to be hungry or to have to go without so your children can eat. It shouldn't happen in Britain today.

Nick said...

Liz - It amazes me they can actually turn up their noses at what sounds like some delicious food. I don't understand where they're coming from. It's a national scandal that people are going hungry in a very wealthy country.