OPINION - Here is one easy change that could help food banks

food, opinion - here is one easy change that could help food banks

Nancy Durrant

Every time. Every damn time. Every trip to my local Sainsbury’s (or, increasingly, Asda, because it’s cheaper, and they do leaf tea at the one in Lewisham), I get to the till, haul my tatty canvas totes onto my shoulder and there it is, the blasted food bank box. I forgot. Again.

In 2022, in a highly developed country, we shouldn’t need food banks but we do. Between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK-wide network distributed more than 2.1 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis — an increase of 14 per cent compared to the same period in 2019/20. Food inflation has today hit an astonishing 14.6 per cent. Record numbers of families are struggling to put enough food on the table, and as living costs rocket and we head into the winter, those numbers are only going to rise.

I’m lucky, I’m well-off enough that when I shop, an extra couple of cheap tins or a pack or two of sanitary towels (because it’s not just food, it’s all essentials) isn’t going to give me sleepless nights about my bills. I can do it, and I mean to do it. But in all my local supermarkets, the food banks donation bin is tucked away, often barely noticeable — an apology, not even a plea.

So I have a suggestion. Many of the chains already make donations to food charities, and I don’t expect them to give up profits, even if they could easily afford to. But they could all do one very simple thing to help the current dire situation and that’s remind their customers, during their shop, to donate.

It’s simple enough. A set of laminated signs, placed throughout the store and updated once a week (seriously, you could do this with a non-permanent marker, it’s not hard) with what’s needed for the local food banks, saying the following:

“We donate X amount of goods every week to local food banks but more is needed. If you are able, please consider buying an extra [tin of carrots/pack of spaghetti/carton of UHT milk/box of tampons] and place it in the box provided after the tills to help people struggling in your community.”

Lots of people won’t. Lots of people genuinely can’t. But lots of people will. There’s no way it wouldn’t make a difference, and to quote one supermarket that wouldn’t lose a penny by doing this, every little helps.

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