Are Food Banks Evil??? (Fourteen Reasons Why They May Be)

Here's a question most people who know me probably would never expect me to ask: "Are food banks evil?"

Let me make a simple case:

If segregating the water fountains people used to drink from, if segregating the bathrooms, the swimming pools, schools, housing, churches, golf courses, restaurants and all other community areas people use is societally *evil* then, why is it that segregating the places where people get their food not evil, too?

Please think about these things:
1. Is it cost effective to build buildings in which to house a special food supply for people who are currently down on their luck and, so, need help from food banks?
2. Could sending all food to supermarkets and issuing "food credit cards" cut down on the expense of maintaining separate places for delivering food, aka "food banks"?
3. Could having all people get food from super markets help reduce distribution and storage costs and thereby help us FEED MORE PEOPLE? (Or at least feed them more economically/more cheaply?)
4. Could using supermarkets as the central place to pick up food help REDUCE DEPRESSION and STRESS among the population of people who must currently resort to food banks to feed themselves and their families?
5. Could the integration of our food distribution help strengthen our citizenry by removing one of the last vestiges of segregation - "FOOD segregation"? (I'm acutely aware that food segregation isn't limited to any one race, age, gender, etc.)
6. Do food banks, in their desire to want to help, inadvertently intensify prejudicial thinking towards underprivileged classes of people? (And doesn't prejudice STRESS OUT BOTH the prejudiced AND the person being subjected to prejudice?)
7. Why not JUST FEED PEOPLE? (Is there some sort of moral benefit to adding embarrassment to the issue of poverty - whether temporary or ingrained poverty? Why make them go to a special location to get food which is already found in supermarkets and which, AGAIN, have to be moved from the supermarket to the food pantry? CUT OUT THE MIDDLE MAN!)

A few better things to do with current food bank properties:
1. Use the buildings for music lessons
2. Use the buildings for art studios
3. Use the buildings for mixed use apartments
4. Use the buildings for exercise facilities. (It's abundantly evident we need to exercise to help us process some of the high-calorie foods we consume)
5. Use the buildings for police stations or mini-hospitals/clinics, adjunct college campuses and/or other training facilities such as computer labs, etc.
6. Use the buildings to teach telephone skills to low-skilled but, intelligent, hard-working people and, then, onshore a bit of the vast customer service needs we have in the USA
7. Use them for affordable day care (Affordable, reliable day care could help low income families work up to better jobs.)

So, I'm curious: Are food banks, evil???

Thanks, and #KeepSTRONG!!
Vincent Wright

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Comment by Wes on July 13, 2009 at 12:48pm
Vincent: It seems as if there is more to your questions than just the question itself. In my experience with foodbanks, most (at least in Chicago) are housed in churches, recreation centers, or township offices, with one large depository for donated goods for hundreds of locations; which is the only "building" I am aware of that actually exists solely for the purpose of food distribution to the needy. I have to agree with Bob that the real problem is poverty and economics, not the foodbanks; nor the buildings that house them. Your question regarding the buildings themselves could be used to argue the same point for innumerable human or learning services (ie. healthcare, financial and credit counseling, childcare, etc.) As far as "just feeding people", if the government had not subsidized large corporate farming institutions and virtually destroyed the small farmer, many more families could grow their own food.... essentially, why should anyone "give" away food in the first place? As someone who has utilized foodbanks in the past, and met some wonderful people in doing so, I never felt prejudiced, or underclass; only as someone who was not too proud to do whatever it took to take care of my family in very hard and tough financial times. I'm still a bit confused as to what the correlations between foodbanks and the properties they reside in have to do with each other. As far as supermarkets are concerned, I have done some research in the past and found that many larger supermarkets will not, or do not donate food based solely on the fact that they are afraid they will be sued if anyone were to get sick from the donations. They will only participate through public donations of their products, and manage the distribution, therefore removing the potential liability from them, to the donater. Another sad side effect from the litigeous society we live in....
Comment by Bob Hayward on July 13, 2009 at 8:34am
Great question and as someone very involved in Foodbanks... of course I am biased...

Please think about these things:
1. Is it cost effective to build buildings in which to house a special food supply for people who are currently down on their luck and, so, need help from food banks?

Most UK foodbanks are being given access to under used buildings, so there is nil cost; In Swindon we actualy pay 1/2 price to rent a warehouse that without our support might force the business to close and we have a distribution point given free, that was under used before we started.

2. Could sending all food to supermarkets and issuing "food credit cards" cut down on the expense of maintaining separate places for delivering food, aka "food banks"?

The key to targetted funding of those in crisis "without red tape" relies on the "professionals" assessing and vetting the need and issuing a voucher with "zero cost" ~ because the food we give out has been "donated" - the issuing agency has no cost associated with it - IF you issue a voucher to be re-deemed at a Supermarket - then ASDA WalMart or Tesco's wants to be paid, so the issuing agnecy has got to pay for the voucher. Now that agency has to employ the current red tape to ensure it is not being ripped off and we are back to the 33 day application processing period which prevents the UK state system from caring for those in crisis. It even takes 7 days to process a crisis loan - if you have NO money, what do you do for seven days..?

3. Could having all people get food from super markets help reduce distribution and storage costs and thereby help us FEED MORE PEOPLE? (Or at least feed them more economically/more cheaply?)

We feed 300 familes each month with 9-30 meals for less than £45,000 per annum - because the food is DONATED. If any one agency has to pay for the food - the cost of the food (£26 per day) becomes the problem NOT the cost of storage or distribution...

4. Could using supermarkets as the central place to pick up food help REDUCE DEPRESSION and STRESS among the population of people who must currently resort to food banks to feed themselves and their families?

The key service provided by the UK Foodbank is BEFRIENDING & SIGNPOSTING - this can not be provided by supermarkets, the food is the sticky plaster - the offer of freindship and signposting of longer term solution is vital; ASDA/WalMart just won't take that "caring" on...


5. Could the integration of our food distribution help strengthen our citizenry by removing one of the last vestiges of segregation - "FOOD segregation"? (I'm acutely aware that food segregation isn't limited to any one race, age, gender, etc.)

We have to take on POVERTY not Foodbanks and what better way than asking those who "have" in one local community to support those "who do not" ~ especially if all it costs me a tin of tomatoes and an hour of my time...

6. Do food banks, in their desire to want to help, inadvertently intensify prejudicial thinking towards underprivileged classes of people? (And doesn't prejudice STRESS OUT BOTH the prejudiced AND the person being subjected to prejudice?)

Our first client in Swindon was an "Ex Senior Manager" of a large multi-national who when he had been made redundant, was too proud to register for "unemployment" benefit and eat his way through his redundancy before turning for help when he actually had no money left. We've had people from all walks of life and all areas of the town - NOT just a small minority class as you might expect...

7. Why not JUST FEED PEOPLE? (Is there some sort of moral benefit to adding embarrassment to the issue of poverty - whether temporary or ingrained poverty? Why make them go to a special location to get food which is already found in supermarkets and which, AGAIN, have to be moved from the supermarket to the food pantry? CUT OUT THE MIDDLE MAN!)

The "middleman" - is YOU & ME - who individually DONATE the food - without the collective efforts of the local community in charitable donations this will become a government funded programme with all the red tape and delays and therefore people will go hungry. YOU & ME are the solution, not the problem. This is not hurting and seperating - this is pulling together and building self esteem.

No single Goose, that gets injured, lands by itself - they land in pairs. A "well bird" draws alongside the injured bird and stays with them until they recover and then they fly off together - THAT is social care in action - That is Foodbank...
Comment by Steve Tylock on July 13, 2009 at 8:18am
Vincent,

A thoughtful question, and one that made me check... As I read your proposal it occurred to me that we do have a food program that is based around the grocery store - food stamps. In quickly looking, I see that it is a federal program and perhaps not intended as a primary means of obtaining food. [I can't say that I am vary familiar with it - other than seeing that the debit cards are accepted at most of the grocery stores I happen to frequent]

As to the goodness of the program - I'm certain a majority of the people working or volunteering their time in various programs are doing so out of a desire to help those who need food. The materials given out come from organizations looking to help.

Are some aspects cumbersome for the needy or efficient for the food bank - perhaps. Evil? doubtful.

Does it leave an opening for someone to come along and "do it better" - absolutely...

steve
Comment by Michael (Mike) Mattar on July 13, 2009 at 7:35am
Vincent - this is very thought provoking. Those that know me would not be surprised by my response anymore than been surprised by you asking the question.

In and of itself, the concept - NO - foodbanks are not evil. The way in which individual food banks are run my have some element of evil attached to it but by and large they serve the greater good of the community.

The difference between the food bank and other areas some of which you mention is that participation at a food bank is purely voluntary and is of free will. No one is forced to go and no one is excluded based on any criteria. Frankly I am surprised at some of the folks that are seen at the venues but we do not know their story and should not judge. The service does not hurt anyone and is open to all - how then can it be evil unless individual administrations exhibit bias.

Far more evil and biased is social security - now there is a topic for you.

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