Saturday, January 30, 2010

Food Bank Culture Limits Choice

I used to buy day-old bread, buns and rolls; over-ripe produce; and non-food products whose packaging was damaged, e.g., toilet paper, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products such as toothpaste and toothbrushes. All these would be substantially marked down in price.

That option no longer exists in my community, except at the local corner store whose prices are already marked well above supermarket levels.

For the past several years, all my local supermarkets have sent such items to the food bank. Which means people of low income must go to the food bank, go without those products, or pay a regular price for them. I understand a similar phenomenon has happened in other communities.

There are those of us who don't appreciate the choice the new food bank culture has forced on us, that of going to our local food bank or going without. There used to be a third, dignity-preserving alternative for those who could still manage it.

For some, visiting the food bank isn't an option. In the words of one WISE storyteller, Sheree:
I just can’t. It’s begging to me. I can’t beg my family for anything, I can’t beg society. I did all kinds of begging when I was growing up: Please don’t hit me, please love me, please look at me as a person. Now I won’t beg anybody for anything. Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health, p109.

Anytime I say to someone that I can't go to the food bank, I get back comments loaded with judgement: that I should 'swallow my pride', that 'the food bank is there to help', that 'there's nothing wrong with it'. On and on it goes.

Well, pride is one of the few things I've left, I don't want help, and that solution isn't right for me given issues they know nothing about.

I'm sick of people expecting a justification for this or any other decision I make. Those who do this should think carefully about the position of privilege from which they make their judgements. I include other people in poverty; there's class consciousness at work at all levels.

Why is it that the more financially destitute a person is, and the more of themselves or their independence they try to hang onto (think of homeless people who refuse to go to shelters), the more they are judged as inadequate or somehow deficient?

ETA: A reader sent a link to this. There's a "gleaming new food centre" for the Greater Boston Food bank.

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