Sunday, 10 June 2012

Why BOGOF's are Brilliant!

Note:  Please do read this, it is NOT a paid-for post, I'm just passionate about all people having enough to eat.

I’m assuming you know what a BOGOF is?  Buy one, get one free and you increasingly see them at the supermarkets now and everyone likes something for free don’t they?  But what I find often happens is that you then start to stockpile foods that you don’t really need and the cupboard gets way full of things that don’t get used that often.
Shall I share with you what I do with my free one?
I gave it away. Yep, it cost me nothing, so why not share my fortune because I can?
At the moment I am giving it to a specific family that I am helping but at other times I will give it to our local food bank. My local food bank is run by a church in my town and it has donations of both goods and money from other local churches, local people and supermarkets.  I went to visit a couple of weeks ago and watched as they gave out 2 bags of shopping to about 60 families. Families that are in need because they are living on the poverty line.  Roll back a year and I had no idea that anyone lived on the poverty line in an affluent Hertfordshire town. It is so wrong.
I sincerely wish I knew more about the way our benefits worked in this country as I find it so hard to believe that people are expected to live on such a small amount, it means that even when they have changed their ways and are trying hard to work themselves out of debt, they hardly can. It is just horrifying that a family may split and the benefits go with the partner who has walked out and the person left home with the kids then has to be reassessed, easily taking 2 - 4 months. What will they eat in the meantime?  I used to naively think that everyone had someone they could turn to when things were really tough, I now know that is not the case.

Food banks are a lifeline to some people; the tray of eggs, box of cereal and tinned fruit that they receive are luxuries in their daily meal of plain pasta or tinned soup.  Yes that really was the extent of the diet of a lady I have been helping up until a few months ago when I bought her to my house and started to feed her.
And that is the thing, we are not talking scruffy homeless people here, you may never spot on the street who is struggling and needs help. At the food bank I saw a load of families from my kids' school, all dressed and clean, all with homes and polite children that attend school but for one reason to another, illness, redundancy or such they need food. I now know of mothers who regularly skip their meals so they can feed their children.  Of families who use a microwave to cook everything as they cannot afford to have their well-used cooker mended and of children who have never tasted a piece of exotic fruit as that would just be a frivolous waste of their parents scarce money.

This is the picture in every town in the UK, even the rich ones like mine, where the average house price is £250K. The good news is that increasingly there are more local food banks available and people are able to turn to them but it strikes me that not enough people know about them or know how to access them.  So if you are reading this and you skip meals as you would rather feed your kids or you know that a bag of shopping would make the world of difference to your diet then visit this map and see just how many there are across the country.  Also speak to your GP or Health Visitor as it will be them or specified council workers who will be able to give you a voucher to use at the food bank.

I am passionate to see this network grow.  People coming together and helping other people is so important. In this day and age we hear everyone talking about how so and so needs a helping hand and wouldn't it be great if they got a break? Well, we can all orchestrate that break and it is so simple.  Small donations from lots of people make a big difference.

Perhaps after reading this you feel compelled to put an extra item of shopping in your trolley and maybe some of your local supermarkets have food bank drop-off points for you to conveniently drop the tin or packet into. Or maybe you can give an hour or two a week to help sort the donations or chat to someone in need. 

There is something we all can do.  The question is........ will you?


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