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Let's talk food poverty with Oxfam and Unilever - read how MN bloggers got on during a recent visit - you could win a £250 voucher NOW CLOSED

(93 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 19-Dec-14 10:38:03

As you may know we have been working with Oxfam and Unilever to showcase their efforts with the work currently being undertaken via their partners Trussell Trust and FareShare with foodbanks in the UK. All together the support from Unilever is worth over 2 million meals to those in need.

You can find out more about the project, and Oxfam’s role here: here

Unilever says "Many UK families struggle to make ends meet. At Unilever, we are working with Oxfam, and its partners, Trussell Trust and FareShare to turn this around. We see a bright future where people from every background can thrive"

Since 2012, Unilever has helped provide nearly two million meals by supporting Oxfam’s work in the UK. This has included helping to set up foodbanks with the Trussell Trust and enabling the distribution of good quality surplus food through FareShare.

Oxfam recently hosted 4 MN bloggers for a day where they learnt about the projects first hand - they say "we were pleased to give the chance for the bloggers to explore, engage and to inspire them to write about food poverty in the UK and Oxfam's role in addressing the issue".

You can read about how the bloggers got on my reading their - sometimes very moving - blog posts by clicking on their names below:

In this post, Being Tilly's Mummy describes her own experience of struggling to feed her family, and how going to a food bank helped her get back on her feet, on a practical level, but also emotionally. Visiting Brent reminded her that a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear is sometimes just as important as receiving the food.

Blogger WitWitWoo wasn't sure what to expect when she visited the Trussell Trust's food bank - especially when she learnt it was in a church - and was a little nervous about the experience. But what she found a warm, safe, welcoming environment, free from judgement.

For Joy to the World, the experience made her realise how important it is to bust taboos around using food banks - she found laughter and camaraderie there, and was struck by the kindness and generosity of local business owners who were donating food.

For casa costello - who went to Liverpool - she was overwhelmingly aware of the dingity - saying "nNo-one should be made to feel worthless or embarrassed about needing the help and this was such a strong message at Crosby"

themeltonhouse was unable to attend at the last minute but also blogged

On this thread we'd like to hear about your perceptions and possibly experiences of foodbanks. For example; have you made a direct donation, does your business get involved with this scheme, have you been on the receiving end of a foodbank, do you think you need support like this?

Sometimes this is a contentious issue, but whatever your view, please post your thoughts below. As a gesture of thanks, one winner who posts will win a £250 voucher for the store of their choice (from Unilever).

Please add your comment by 2 January 2015. Standard Insight T&Cs apply

whohasnickedmyvodka Fri 19-Dec-14 13:45:08

My local food bank has been a lifeline for me and my dd this year we would have starved with out them. I have been hit with the bedroom tax because my ds is out of control and in temporary foster care I receive £100 a week for me and my dd to live on after paying £25 for the bedroom tax I'm left with £75 a week for all my bills and food.The amazing people at my local food bank have shown me so much compassion and empathy from a cup of tea and a friendly ear to a extra packet of biscuits for my dd they care and when you are in the position I'm in at the moment it means more than anything

telsa Fri 19-Dec-14 14:50:01

Foodbanks are amazing - it is shocking that we need them, but we definitely do. Our world is bizarre - simultaneously so much poverty and hunger and such an excess of food waste.

clopper Fri 19-Dec-14 14:56:44

I would like to donate more to food banks but I'm never quite sure what to donate or where to take it. I've occasionally seen food bank collections at the back of supermarket tills. I think it would be a good idea to have them more permanently in major supermarkets and possibly with some sort of sign at the start about what they would like/ need at the time.

I haven't had any personal experience of using a food bank but the school where I work has referred families to the local one. It seems a shame in the 21st century that they have to even exist in a wealthy nation like this, especially after watching the black Friday shopping madness - people fighting over electrical goods whilst some people can't feed their families.

BigfootFilesHisToesInYourTea Fri 19-Dec-14 19:24:16

Our local supermarket sometimes has a trolley out for foodbank donations, but it always has a bin outside for petfood donations for an animal charity. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the petfood collection shouldn't be there, but why do all the big supermarkets not have similar permanent foodbank collection points? I think it is outrageous that we need them, but we clearly do, right here right now. Longer term, politicians need to sort this out. How have we ended up at this point?

sharond101 Fri 19-Dec-14 20:46:20

I applaud those who help at foodbanks. My workplace has made a substantial donation of supplies to the local foodbank this Christmas and I am so proud of the effort we as a team have put in at such a difficult time for those who are struggling. I didn't know the local foodbank existed until we started to gather things together to donate as a team so feel motivated to give some more and may when time allows volunteer. I believe charity begins at home meaning in our local communities. Not taking away from the wider problems in the world but if we cannot support our neighbours then who can we support.

thewomaninwhite Fri 19-Dec-14 20:46:48

I think that they are amazing and have donated in the past. I must do it again soon, thank you for the reminder. I find the trolleys in supermarkets useful bur would prefer them at the entrance to remind me rather than at the exit (hopeless if I have forgotten to get bits).

It is sad that we need them but I am grateful that they exist for those that do need them. I am just lucky enough not to have done so.

CMOTDibbler Fri 19-Dec-14 21:22:26

I donate to foodbanks, having been fortunate enough to never have needed one as when I had no money it was just me and I could eat plain pasta for weeks at a time (10p a bag at the time).

I live in the sort of nice little town that people come to on coach trips to admire, but people out in the villages face a long bus ride just to get to any supermarket, CAB or benefits office (in fact you need to go to the nearest city for the benefits office even from here), so the problem of rural poverty is very real.

Keepcalmanddrinkmulledwine Fri 19-Dec-14 21:39:40

It is shocking that we need food banks but as we do, I would like to see lists suggesting what to give and clear places to donate in supermarkets.

The only shame that should be felt about the use of food banks is the shame of a Government that allows it to be necessary.

flamingtoaster Sat 20-Dec-14 15:13:45

I'm fortunate never to have needed to go to a foodbank. I have donated to the collection in our local supermarket. I think some of the television programmes about foodbanks have perhaps put people off donating because they tend to show extreme cases where people are misusing the foodbank and don't show enough about how people in real need are helped.

mumsbe Sat 20-Dec-14 15:21:29

It was nice to see people collecting food for our local food bank in our supermarket. There is no shame in using a food bank when you need to that is what it is there for.
People from all walks of life use food banks as its set up by the community and donated to by the community to help the community so don't feel that you can't use one if you can't afford to eat.

TheHoneyBadger Sat 20-Dec-14 16:34:26

i've never used a food bank proper but one term in london many years ago when student loans company messed up i was rather reliant on the hari krishna van that came to camden giving out free simple vegan lunches and a little free food kitchen that gave out (bizarrely) pret a manger sandwiches and bottles of water and pieces of fruit. both were a godsend whilst waiting for loans to come through and not yet having found work.

i confess i generally find it hard to understand the need for people on benefits with children - as in tax credits, jsa and cb adds up to a fair bit (i've been there and with one child and one adult this would add up to at least £140pw in addition to HB which is enough for food and bills) but nowadays with the kind of over the top sanctioning that is going on i can see how people might find themselves in a mess short term.

likewise those who are unable to claim benefits as newly returned to the uk or migrants who cannot claim benefits and have not yet found work are in need of short term support.

for the poor people finding themselves declared too well to get sickness benefits but too ill to seek work and therefore get jsa food bank have been literal lifesavers - though sadly even with that support too many have died.

we shouldn't need them but some people do.

TheHoneyBadger Sat 20-Dec-14 16:37:20

oh and i've noticed recently around here churches do their harvest festival collections for food banks and specifically ask for items that are useful to them. we also have advertising for coats, shoes and scarves etc. i find it far preferable to give winter coats (mine and ds' to a food bank type place than to a charity shop that will sell them for profit)

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Sat 20-Dec-14 18:31:19

I'd like to know why it's left to the individual person to donate food to foodbanks when the shops throw so much into the bins. Helping others shouldn't be down to individual people, especially when companies such as supermarkets receive a heck of a lot of money in tax relief anyway.

Keepcalmanddrinkmulledwine Sat 20-Dec-14 19:58:57

Good point LadySybil.

I think one of the key contributing factors in poverty recently is the bedroom tax. It has literally slashed the income of many of our poorest and most vulnerable. The irony being that those in society who give the most are not those that necessary have the most to give.

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Sat 20-Dec-14 20:17:31

There's a lot of reasons, I think. Zero contract hours must cause mayhem with people's finances, benefit restrictions and the time taken to sort out claims another. I fail to see why poverty and donations to food banks are down to individual people when large supermarkets are given tax subsidies when they thow perfectly edible food away in tonnes on a daily basis though. Surely the governments idea of a 'big society' wasn't this?

You can measure a society as a whole on how they support their most vulnerable and we're going a pretty shocking job considering the UK is a first world country.

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Sat 20-Dec-14 20:23:39

Oh, and I don't think the media and the TV chef's help. Take Jamie Oliver's budget meals. They are budget for the middle classes who can afford to buy a £20 joint of meat to last them a few days. What about the working poor who can't afford this for a week, let alone a few days. I watch the cookery programmes and there's nothing on any of the channels which advise people on how to create a nutritritious meal on a very tiny budget. If you wanted to start somewhere, start here too, then look at finding a way to improve the mental health of those who need food banks and rely upon benefits so that they can see they are worth more and can see how to lift themselves out of the trap which is called poverty.

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Sat 20-Dec-14 20:28:43

And lets not forget that there's a huge amount of poverty within single parent families too (amongst others) because the none resident parent refuses to pay for their child's upkeep. In an ideal world this would have the same consequences as child neglect, because that is what this is. If I don't feed or clothe my child I would expect him to be taken into care and I'd expect a prison sentence, yet when an absent parent doesn't contribute they are legally able to walk away. I find this ridiculous! As I said, there's a lot of reasons why food poverty exists, but there's things that the UK Government could do to help which they choose to ignore.

Dolallytats Sat 20-Dec-14 20:50:28

I've never needed a food bank, although this is because I have access to a large overdraft rather than having enough money. DH and I are on benefits-he has been signed off while he recovers from a (thankfully minor) stroke and I am agoraphobic. It's tough, especially when you have been used to a pretty good wage.

I managed to donate once to a foodbank when I was walking round a supermarket as part of my CBT. However, I have no idea if I can donate remotely a I'm not able to get to a supermarket now (have gone downhill!!).

I really feel for those who need to use these places and would like to help, even if it's in a very small way.

BlackeyedSantaStuckUpAChimney Sat 20-Dec-14 22:17:21

i find it difficult to really understand how things get so bad that food banks are needed. it should not be necessary.

I agree with the principle of bedroom tax, but they are using a scattergun technique taking out a lot of people who it should not apply to rather than an individualised approach where people have had the opportunity to move and have refused. penalising those who can not move is not right. same with sanctions and benefits seem a bit trigger happy sometimes. they can be very jobsworth in the benefits office.

and yes to the comparison that if I did not feed and clothe a child then it would be prison for me yet an absent father does not feed and clothe a child with impunity or with consequences so minor that they are not worth bothering about.

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Sat 20-Dec-14 22:34:52

I think there's too many reasons to think of. The cost of living now is far too high, so people can't save that tiny nest egg. Families are more fragmented then 10 years ago, so there's often no one to turn to when benefits are delayed and even if you did have someone, their cost of living has also gone up so they have less to help a loved one out. Banks are less likely to offer credit to people so where do you go if you've lost your job or your wages are only enough to cover your bills but nothing else?

Bedroom tax is an issue, but I do think that most of the people who use foodbanks are the 'working poor', who's wages have not increased enough to cover their day to day costs and the benefits have been frozen in a pathetic attempt to pay back the 'national debt'. It's the poor and the vulnerable who are paying for this. The cost of living has rocketed yet wages and tax credits have been frozen. There are delays in benefits but I don't think a lot of people who need to use foodbanks are in this category as there's few people affected, they are mostly the working poor.

I think the Government needs to increase the pay of public sector workers and increase benefits. This will filter back into the economy as people will have that money to feed themselves and support their families. Zero hours contracts need to be abolished and made illegal. It may look good on the 'out of work' statistics, but when someone is not guaranteed a minimum income from week to week, they are forced to turn elsewhere to feed their children.

And absent parents should be prosecuted for avoiding to pay child maintenance. If they are abroad they should be arrested as soon as they step onto UK soil. If they are allowed to get away with it like they are currently, they will continue to think that it's OK to neglect their children. It's the resident parent who struggles to feed that child. On top of this the supermarkets should be able to donate their surplus/spoiled foods that are destined for the bin providing they are edible. I used to work in retail and I know they can claim waste food from their tax bill, but they can't if they donate it which is why they'd rather throw it away!

Food is a basic necessity, not a luxury.

Fanjango Sun 21-Dec-14 02:21:48

I have donated to foodbanks via the school and a scheme to ensure children had an advent calendar this year. It's a national disgrace that we need such intervention in a country that is so rich! Rising costs of living, stagnating wages and the fact that many have no savings to fall back on if the worst happens means more now are living on the cusp of financial crisis. If my other half lost his job we would be finished, no money for food and not enough savings to cover the gap between wages and benefits payments. A few years ago we were on benefits and it took 15 weeks to get the housing benefit sorted, if we were not fortunate to have a wonderful relative we would have lost everything as without help we could not pay the bills. It would be a matter of a couple of weeks before our food and money would run out and with 4 kids to feed there is no amount of pride that would stop me from going to the foodbank.
A realistic living wage, guaranteed hours (no zero hour contracts) and protection for workers rights are absolute essentials for ensuring that the pwople who are the backbone of the finances of the country are protected by it.

Sorehead Sun 21-Dec-14 03:42:39

Whenever I see that there's a collection in my local supermarket I buy some extra tins. Last time, I picked up a few selection boxes too, because it breaks my heart to think of children whose parents aren't able to give them a Christmas. I've also donated to our local toy appeals for that reason.

When I was paying for my shopping after buying the extra food bank bits, I was chatting to the cashier and she told me a lovely story about a man who bought about £25-30 of food for the food bank collection because he'd needed it a few years ago but had managed to get back on track so wanted to help others who were in the same situation he'd been in. I nearly started crying at the till!

I agree with the poster who said there should be permanent collection points at supermarkets, which are well publicised at the entrance.

It'd be nice if the winner of the voucher used part of it to donate to their local food bank; a lot of people will have made one off donations due to it being Christmas, but how many people will continue buying the odd tin into the New Year?

hesterton Sun 21-Dec-14 07:28:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 21-Dec-14 09:01:24

that's a great idea about being able to donate points. i know that our local coop used to allow you to donate your points to the primary school. would be great if the likes of tesco would have a local food bank clubcard and allow points donation to it.

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