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Food Banks and Sustainable Companies

4th February 2014


This month our theme page is focused around the Sustainable Events Summit, which takes place in a couple of weeks. As you will see in our theme page, the team here at Speakers Corner feel very strongly about sustainability especially when it comes to recycling and waste.

There is a huge emphasis on the food waste that occurs in the UK and other developed countries around the world. Are the current processes in place, such as food banks, successful or are they fuelling the problem?

In a recent article, former MP, Edwina Currie wrote about food banks and she stated food banks ‘are being used as a stick to beat the government, often by well-meaning groups who want to ‘do something’ to help. In reality, they may be perpetuating the problems that brought people to their doorstep in the first place.’ Edwina worries that the government will put too much money into food banks instead of health programmes for people who suffer from alcoholism or mental illness, which she believes are much bigger issues.

Edwina also states that some people on benefits may take advantage of food banks and if they do not have to pay for food it will encourage them to stay on benefits for longer. Edwina points out that ‘some Liverpool streets where I grew up have betting shops and pawnbrokers, but no food store. There’s no need for one, if enough local residents get their groceries free.’ 

There are two sides to this argument and the other side comes from the Trussell Trust, an organisation that started the Salisbury Foodbank in 2000 and the UK Foodbank network in 2004. The Trussell Trust has fought back against Edwina’s claims about Foodbanks, they stated ‘the Trussell Trust knows who needs Foodbanks because we meet these people and help them. As a result we know that they come from a range of backgrounds for a wide range of reasons that are far more complex than Edwina Currie’s stereotypes.’

Trussell Trust continued to defend the Foodbank network and stated ‘Foodbanks are not an alternative to a local shop. They provide short term emergency food to people in a crisis, people cannot just turn up, take their pick and leave. They must be referred, and there is time-limited help available to prevent dependency.’

If Foodbanks are being used to feed the hungry then we can’t complain about their role in society. Pret a Manger, founded by Sinclair Beecham, is a company that is making an effort to minimalise waste and improve sustainability; they deliver 12,000 fresh meals to numerous homeless shelters in London every week. However on their website they state that ‘tragically, a few of our shops have no regular charities willing to collect our fresh, natural food at the end of each day.’

In the Forbes ‘Top 100 Most Sustainable Countries of 2014’ a few of the companies ranked were British companies, including ‘The Sage Group’, ‘Centrica’, ‘Unilever’ and ‘British Sky Broadcasting’ to name a few. Hopefully other big corporations will follow in the same environmentally friendly footsteps as these companies.

When it comes to sustainability, every little helps and that’s why the team at Speakers Corner started recycling, we hope that other companies will do their bit to help the environment. 

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