· By Oonagh Simms
Good food shouldn't be a choice
I think it would be hard to work in the food industry this week without constantly thinking of those pictures of meagre food parcels being handed out instead of free school meals. Families receiving miserable rations of half carrots and single cheese slices- the photos of which are circulating over social media – when they previously had access to supermarket vouchers that gave them choice, variation and, let’s face it...dignity
Whatever the motivation was for subcontracting food provision to private ‘ for profit’ companies you can be assured it was not the kids who were coming first.
It’s profiteering from misery.
I’m aware that when it comes to school food provision the last thing anyone needs is more middle class handwringing about turkey twizlers. And as someone who makes premium confectionery, I recognise the futility in chatting to you about food poverty. But if this pandemic does anything then it’s going to have to cause a shake up. Because handing out parcels instead of vouchers creates shame out of food poverty and that shame is systemic and it’s institutionalised. That as a society, we don’t believe that low income families can be trusted. Worse, they don’t think they deserve the freedom to go to the shops, buy food their children like and cook it for them.
I wanted to work with food because I love food. And I love good food. I don’t think that good food should be exclusionary and it should never be exploitative. I don’t know the answers here or can even suggest any initiatives. But I’m open to how, as an industry, we can all work fairer, better and more collectively to produce food better and know everyone is entitled to it.
So, as a business we’ve set up a direct debit to a local charity, Zarach, that provides food and hygiene essentials to families in need. There are national organisations such as Magic Breakfast and The Felix Project that also do amazing work. As this year moves forward I feel we need more accessibility and a little less stigma- a new normal that’s not just for those that can’t afford the old one.