Gill Watson, former chef and food activist, recently published a blog post which rapidly went viral. Her efforts to help a starving young man make for powerful and upsetting reading. They’re an indictment of some aspects of the current foodbank system and the austerity policies that have seen foodbank use skyrocket. Gill’s website is here.
I spoke to Gill to find out more about her work. A frank, engaging person, Gill’s work has done enormous good, possibly more than some of the official bodies supposed to be tackling the problem. Her work and the experiences of those she tries to help are an upfront, unvarnished account of life at the bottom.
Welcome to Foodbank Britain.
We discussed the official statistics on foodbank use, statistics that, she says, only take into account the business done by the Trussell Trust. They don’t include figures from local and independent foodbanks. According to Gill, the Trust’s statistics account for less than one-eighth of total foodbank use, indicating the problem is infinitely worse than the already depressing statistics the Trust provides. That in itself should be a wake-up call.
Gill’s own efforts came as a result of seeing people starving on low wages, slashed benefits, benefit sanctions and other elements of Tory austerity policy. In Theresa May’s very comfortable, very well-heeled view we’re ‘all in it together’ and we should merely tighten our belts, keep calm and carry on. It’s simply a matter of keeping things strong and stable.
It’s hard to keep calm when you’re starving, even harder to carry on. It’s not easy to feel strong and stable when you haven’t eaten for days, either. The only good news is that tightening your belt becomes easier the longer you starve.
While the average Tory might not be starving, a great many people are.