The normalisation of hunger

I blogged some time ago about a service that my local Morrissons was offering, ready made convenient bags of food for the local food bank. While I am in support of anything that helps people survive in these difficult times and am behind the idea in principle I have a concern that somehow it belittled and commoditised the act of giving. Support for the food bank becomes another item to be purchased in our weekly shop. Charity has become barcoded. 

It allows us to distance ourselves from the issue, that is there are people in our society who struggle to feed themselves and their families. Whatever the reasons, of which there are many, this cannot be right. There are more food banks in this country than there are McDonalds.

Doing my weekly shop I have noticed a similar worrying trend, where commercial organisations are using food poetry as an opportunity to sell more products by helping us to salve our conscience. Heinz has been running its Magic Breakfast campaign since 2019 and it was its advert that caught my attention this time. 

Heinz’s website says, from March 2020 ‘With the closure of the nation’s schools, at Heinz we’re still committed to providing 12 million free breakfasts to the children who need them most. That’s one meal a day, 5 days a week during the next 8 weeks. Working with our partner Magic Breakfast, we’re aiming to provide these meals for the children who would usually benefit from their breakfast club programmes.

Again, I am hugely supportive of what is behind this campaign and the work of Magic Breakfast. Through their collective actions 1.7 million children continue to be fed when breakfast clubs are shut. What I object to however, is the explicit conditions attached to the offer. Buy a pack of beans and one child will be fed. The implication is obvious, don’t buy our beans and children will go hungry. 

Of course I could buy the beans and give them to my local food bank.

However good the intention, this notion is wrong. No child should go hungry in this country (nor any other) and their welfare should not be conditional upon my consumer habits. It feels very much like buying forgiveness from the church.

What price salvation? £3.50 apparently.

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