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A Magazine for Sheffield

Savages: Food banks in Sheffield

You've got to be prepared. It's always good to have some food about, like some tins of beans. Or bread. Bread mould isn't poisonous, you know. Although when there is a thick green layer of mould, you'd have to be desperate to attempt it. Mind you, there was a young family in Sheffield who recently went without food for five days because they'd run out of cash. You get pretty hungry after five days, wouldn't you? Maybe have a go, even with that mould. You might think it harsh, but I call them savages. They must be savages because in a developed country in the 21st century civilised people can't have to beg for food. That would surely be cause for national shame. Sometimes when I'm in a restaurant I imagine they put a glass box full of baby savages in the corner, scrawny fingers scrabbling, starving mouths gulping air as I browse my brioche of braised salmon. Entertainment for the civilised classes. The modern version of a fishtank. They'd go after us if they got really hungry. You bleeding hearts can feed them if you want. Bit of arm, sir? Bit of leg, madam? That's why food banks are good. They keep 'em from getting too desperate and going after us all. Sometimes I think about the cuts to council tax benefit, housing benefit, working families' tax credit. About there being five times as many unemployed people as there are jobs. About debt pushing loan sharks and cuts pushing governments. About austerity sending our economy down the pan. I think about that and wonder if all that has turned ordinary people into savages. But then I think, nah, bollocks. It's not like I could become one, begging for food or starving. I live in a wealthy 21st century country where civilised people shouldn't have to beg for food. It would be a national disgrace. Food banks get out-of-date stuff from supermarkets, donations from churches, community food growing schemes and concerned individuals. Sheffield has seven food banks now, up from three a couple of years ago. Just one of these can handle 200 people a month, sent there by advice centres, charities and so on; half of them kids. And they look so grateful. Grateful to the point of tears, which I must admit is funny for savages. At a recent meeting of Sheffield food bank providers it was noted that "all attendees didn't want to see expansion of food banks as a solution to food poverty. Ideally they wanted the demand to disappear. They recognised food poverty, fuel poverty, debt etc to all be manifestations of a wider issue." "Manifestation of savages" I think they meant to say. A plague of savages. This advice-type bloke said: "People we refer are generally on benefits. A common scenario is where their benefit has stopped, possibly due to a form going astray or medical certificates not being received or maybe the client didn't send them at the right time. Changes in people's circumstances sometimes cause interruptions in payments. The administration of benefits seems to be getting worse." They make them sound almost ordinary. Not savage at all. Unlucky in losing a job or getting sick. People in need of help to get on their feet but stuck in the system. People not wanting privileges, just an opportunity. An opportunity to stay civilised instead of having to beg for food. But civilised people can't have to beg for food in a country as wealthy as ours. That would be obscene. Bollocks I say, they must be savages. If I lost my job or got sick then surely I'd be given the benefit of the doubt. I mean, it would be horrifying for civilised people to be forced to beg for food in one of the richest countries in the world. It would be a national tragedy. But it's good to have some food in. A few tins of beans and some bread, you know, just in case. Quotes in this piece were taken from a recent meeting of food bank providers [Word doc]: It's not a solution, but if you have a few tins of food lying about, or time, or ideas, then food banks could do with your help. For a current list of food banks in Sheffield, see And there are real solutions out there. See )

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