Next we’ll be saying the poor don’t need to eat

Benefit cuts made Kenny depend on food banks. It’s just take take take with some people, isn’t it?

Share

At last there’s some cheery news about the economy. One section is booming, which is the thriving business of food banks. The number of people using them, on account of being too poor to afford food, has trebled in the past year to 500,000. When Fred Goodwin hears there are banks increasing their turnover this much, he’ll launch a takeover bid, hoping to double the share price before causing them to collapse, at which point he’ll award himself a bonus of five million packets of garlic sausage.

Oxfam says “changes to the benefit system are the most common reasons for people using food banks”, but the Department for Work and Pensions disagrees, saying the benefits system leaves “no one having to struggle to meet their basic needs”. And that must be true, as long as you don’t include food as a basic need.

In fact, it shows how out of control the benefits system has become, when so many claimants are wasting it on frivolities such as food. People on benefits will have to learn to live on goods that are cheaper than food, such as early morning walks, a sense of humour or particles of light.

Iain Duncan Smith might also tell them he has a £2m Tudor house, and some of the furniture in that place has been around for 300 years and not needed a single plate of food in all that time, so it shows it can be done.

The Government also seems to be suggesting there is no link between the changes in the benefit system and the rising numbers at food banks. So there must be some other reason. Maybe there was an episode of River Cottage in which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall makes a supper out of a tin of soup and baked beans, saying: “And the ingredients absolutely have to be from a food bank, as the proximity to despair gives them that exquisite fruity tang.”

Or there was an A A Gill review of a food bank that went: “One scarcely had time to cleanse the palate of the most succulent tuna chunks in brine, aspirational and yet mischievous in its piscine intent, when one fell upon the truly celestial virtues of a Müller vanilla yoghurt, served with ultimate panache by a volunteer from Oxfam in the angelic setting of a car park round the back of Lidl.”

Their popularity has grown so much that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food said the Government “now accepts them as the norm, which they absolutely should not be”. Maybe that’s the plan, to make food banks so common we accept that many people are too poor to afford food, as part of our culture.

Every few weeks on Come Dine with Me, one of the contestants will say: “I’m going for a starter of Heinz tomato soup, and then we’ll have a little break of a day while I wait for my next food bank voucher, and for the main course I’m going to serve whatever soup they’ve got tomorrow.” Then one of the others will say: “The nibbles of a selection of weeds from the park were quite unusual, and the game of turning off the lights to hide from the bailiff was fun so I’m giving him an eight.”

All this takes place in an atmosphere of hostility towards people on benefits, who are supposedly swiping unprecedented sums while spending all day indoors with the blinds down. So the reason for the increase in numbers relying on food banks must be due to a sudden surge in laziness. Over the past year, another 300,000 people have thought: “I can’t be bothered to make my own sandwiches any more. So I’m going to fill in a series of forms to apply for a food bank voucher, proving my low income, queue up at a church hall and get one already made by a volunteer.” It’s the only explanation. For example, there’s Kenny, whose story was told in this paper yesterday. He has a spinal injury that prevents him from working, but still acts as a full-time carer for his even sicker wife. Changes in the benefit system have left him reliant on a food bank. See, it’s just “take take take” with some people, isn’t it?

The story repeated by many claimants is of a change not just in the rules but in the attitude. They’re suspended from benefits regularly, the payments take longer to arrive, and as one disabled woman told me this week: “I now have a dread of any letter that comes recorded delivery, in case it’s a letter to tell me my benefit’s been cut.”

Presumably it’s similar for another claimant, Philip Green, owner of Topshop, whose wife is based in Monaco, thus saving the tycoon’s family hundreds of millions in tax.

Luckily, the Government had a twinge of conscience and chose a different strategy with him. Instead of sending a threatening letter, it invited him to be one of its advisers, on how to cut public spending. And he must be ideal for the job, wandering along the queues at food banks saying: “Now you’ve been given that margarine, why don’t you make it last longer by putting half of it in an offshore account in the Cayman Islands? And put your voucher in your wife’s name, then you’ll be able to get some milk and a banana.”

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Programme Test Manager

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Full time German Supply Teacher...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh  

Scottish independence: Forget Yes and No — what about a United Kingdom of Independent States?

Ben Judah
Francois Hollande at the Paris summit on Iraq with ministers from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on 15 September  

What's going to happen in Syria and Iraq? A guide to the new anti-Isis coalition's global strategy

Jonathan Russell
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week