Tales from the food bank (50)

Happy Anniversary?

by Rick Johansen
I must say that everyone at our food bank, volunteers, admin staff and users, were all thrilled to learn that David Cameron was back in front line politics again.  “Thanks, Dave,” they cried. “Without you there simply wouldn’t be enough food banks to go round.” And in a way, it’s true. In 2010, when David Cameron led an austerity heavy Conservative government in which some Liberal Democrats took jobs, the Trussell Trust operated 35 food banks. Today, there are more than 1300 Trussell Trust food banks, as well as numerous food banks run by others and so-called “food pantries” where the less poor are able to pay relatively small sums to acquire numerous items. Ironically, Cameron himself volunteers at the Witney Food Pantry, I hope, out of guilt for all the food poverty he has caused.
While we are on the subject of Cameron, who by the way is believed to be worth a mere £40 million and has been forced to make ends meet with the quarter of a million quid he gets for being an unelected foreign secretary and for running his office, a privilege granted to all former prime ministers – phew, that’s a mouthful, but I’ve barely started yet – and he has one of the most toxic legacies of any prime minister.
  • Under Cameron, the suicide rate of out of work disabled people doubled
  • Infant mortality rose and life expectancy stagnated for the first time in a century
  • Wages plummeted

I mention these things because they happen more often to the kind of people we see every week. Abandoned by the government and left to their fate, we are, on occasion, all that’s left.

We were quiet today. We’re pretty sure that’s down to the government emergency payments hitting bank accounts which have kept the wolf from the door for a few more days. In other words, it’s a blip and we fully expect to be back to “normal” in the coming weeks.

Today was my 50th day as a food bank volunteer and I was talking with a fellow volunteer why we do what we do. And really it is very simple: we just want to volunteer in a food bank. We like helping people and we like meeting people. We don’t do it to impress people, or God for that matter, or for any reward because that’s not what volunteering means. I’m pretty sure that for all of us, our weekly stints are permanently on the calendars and we try, wherever possible, to schedule other stuff around it. I don’t see any of the current crew stopping anytime soon because they are passionate about what they do.

David Cameron said he returned to government because he “believes in public service“. Of course he does and for £250,000 per annum he fucking well should. I believe in public service too, as do numerous people up and down the country who don’t expect any remuneration whatsoever for what is often arduous work. Giving it everything for nothing is what we do. And I’ll keep doing it until physically and mentally I can’t do it anymore.

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