This letter was published in The Telegraph on 24th August 2023
SIR – A growing number of Britain’s food banks are searching for an exit strategy that can prevent another decade of lengthening queues for, and growing dependency upon, emergency food parcels (“Food banks are on the rise across the world – but are they the answer?”, report, telegraph.co.uk, August 22).
One such strategy entails either adding on – or converting into – an affordable food club such as a pantry or social supermarket. Food banks in 30 towns and cities across our network have done this. Each has reported an immediate reduction in – and in some cases a total elimination of – the need for emergency food parcels, as well as a transformation in residents’ experiences of accessing the service.
They are members of a club rather than clients of a crisis service. They come to shop rather than be handed an emergency food parcel, and they choose from a wide range of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and other fresh products. They access the service in return for a manageable contribution.
Crucially, this dignified and co-operative food offer is accompanied by advice and even credit-union services to maximise incomes and address the root causes of poverty. Meanwhile the social element is tackling the loneliness and isolation that poverty so cruelly imposes on people’s lives.
This fundamental shift in frontline provision – from food bank to food club – must form a key component of any anti-hunger programme.
National director, Feeding Britain
Newcastle upon Tyne