For a long time, I have been both astonished and saddened that here in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the Third Millenium, people’s reliance on foodbanks has massively increased. One source notes that –
“The Trussell Trust is the largest food bank network in the UK, and it handed out around 41,000 food packs in 2009/10 compared to 1.2 million in 2016/17.”
If a society which is anything but poor can find itself in a position where this is the case, then it is hard to conclude anything other than we have gone wrong somewhere. But we have not just ‘gone wrong’ in some mysterious and inexplicable way. No. The going wrong came about as the result of choices we made.
I don’t suppose it is the result of any single decision or choice we have made. I do suppose it is the result of a whole load of decisions and choices we have made over a humber of years. Each one of those individual choices gradually turned us in a particular direction and onto a particular path. Each further decision was another step along that path. And so, perhaps almost imperceptibly, we found ourselves moving in a direction we may never have intended; but looking back, we express genuine surprise and wonder – “how did we get here?”
At the present time, I think many are beginning to see the reality of this in relation one particular situation – the provision of free school meals during the holidays. There has been a movement in the United Kingdom for some time which has campaigned for free meals to be given to children during the school holidays, led with remarkable nobility and humility by a man called Marcus Rashford, who is a footballer. His public campaign has generated a great deal of support – except in Government, where the plea to provide free meals seemed to fall on deaf ears and hardened hearts. In a strange way, that actually turned out almost to be a good thing; because of it, a large number of private businesses signed up to the campaign and announced that they would each provide free meals. Their names and locations have since been collated onto a map, so that those in need can find them and make use of them. One such business owner said –
“We stand with Marcus Rashford in making sure no child in our local community goes hungry this half term.”
Today, the Government continue to proclaim their view that it is better to give additional support to local councils, so that help can be given in this way; I can’t help feeling they have entirely missed the point. However, public pressure is certainly continuing to mount on the Government, and even MPs on the Government side are quoted today as saying –
“It’s not too late to do the right thing.”
I have a feeling that before very much longer, the Government position will change – not because it is the right thing to do, unfortunately, but only because of poor public perception and as an exercise in damage limitation.
Regardless of whether or not the Government do change their mind on this issue, so many ordinary people and businesses – who are no doubt suffering themselves because of the pandemic and all it has brought with it – are looking beyond themselves and out toward others.
And this gives me great hope for the future.