I have been pondering over the question ‘Are food banks a sign of a successful society or rather and demonstration of a failing society?’ I am of two minds.
Food banks are an increasing phenomenon. In 2017 there were nearly 1.2 million three-day food packs issued by the Trussell Trust, one of many such organisations across the United Kingdom. Northumberland, the county in which I live and one which is fairly sparsely populated, has six food banks in operation.
In recent weeks there have been several stories on the local television news saying that the food banks are running out of supplies and urging people and businesses to donate. It is a desperate state of affairs when people are not able to obtain enough food and I am eternally grateful that I am not one of them, at least not yet. There for the grace.
In many ways I am delighted that good people rally round and set up distribution points to help out people in trouble. It is surely a sign of an altruistic and caring society. It restores my faith in human nature.
On the other hand I am appalled that, in the sixth richest country in the world, we have people who have dropped so far down in society that they are unable to support themselves. This is not a handful but a significant number of individuals and families. This is surely a sign of an uncaring society where its social safety net is inadequate. The most basic duty of a government is to protect its people and food banks are a sign of failure.
As you can see then, I am in a bind. Food banks are a bad reflection on the sorry state of our welfare system, yet they are a marvellous example of the human spirit.
I accept that there are no simple answers to highly complex problems yet food security and inequality should be very high up on all of our agendas. We are social animals and must not forget those less fortunate than ourselves. You just never know.