Social policy in the some of the world’s wealthiest countries has failed. Countries in which large numbers of the populace have to rely on food banks or other charitable feeding programs have divided their citizens into “us” and “them” and tarred “them” with the brush of “less worthy.”
No matter how fresh and healthy the food, no matter how barrier-free the application process, no matter how friendly and helpful the staff, food banks are a humiliating and inadequate means for governments to avoid responsibility for basic human justice, which includes the fundamental right to be free from hunger.
Food banks started as emergency measures in the 1980s but quickly became institutionalized within the non-profit sector. Thirty years later they continue to rely on charitable donations to fund their operations and to feed the masses who come through their doors. As Elaine Power wrote in July 25 in an essay for the Globe and Mail (“It’s time to close Canada’s food banks”):
Food banks have become a serious obstacle in the fight against poverty. By promising to “end hunger” by feeding hungry Canadians, they provide a comforting illusion that no one is hungry – or if they are, it’s their own fault. They shelter us from the harsh reality that millions lack the basic necessities of life.
Food banks have spread throughout the richest nations of the world. France has them. So do Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Jill Reilly wrote in the April 18th Guardian that UK food banks fed over 60,000 people last year and expect to feed over 100,000 this year. Food Banks Canada says a staggering 900,000 Canadians turn to them every month. Feeding America‘s network of food banks says it feeds 37 million Americans each year. Foodbank Australia provides food for 88,000 meals every day, 80 percent of it to low-income families.
Next: Food Banks As Signs of Moral Deficit
Photos 1 and 3: Thinkstock; Photo 2: Boston Food Bank, via Wikimedia Commons
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