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Foodbanks are not normal

Foodbanks? 10 years or so ago, how many of us had heard of them? Or, to put it another way, if you’d been told 10 years ago that within 10 years more than 1 million food parcels would be given out each year in the UK, around 150,000 in Scotland, simply in order for people to feed themselves and their families, would you have believed that? How have foodbanks managed to become a normal part of everyday life for so many, and accepted as a fact by the rest of us? It’s a classic example of ‘normalisation’…

Normalisation is the process of things becoming, or being accepted as, normal. There’s a gey wheen o highfalutin definitions borrowed from many branches of science and the social sciences to describe how normalisation occurs, but one of the simplest explanations is that we become accustomed to certain situations, no matter how unpleasant, just by seeing, hearing, or being subjected to them more often. Think how successful ‘Project Fear’ was back in 2014 by constantly repeating the ‘too wee, too poor, too stupid’ mantra or consistently stating as incontrovertible fact that pensions wouldn’t be paid in an independent Scotland, we wouldn’t be allowed into the EU, we would be the only country in the world to not have a currency, and so on. We’re still hearing the ‘subsidy junkie’ and ‘we pay your bills’ myths repeated ad infinitum and, especially in the rest of the UK, a lot of people believe this tripe! That’s normalisation…

While we’re on the subject of definitions, what about ‘food poverty’? Food poverty is defined by NHS Scotland as “the inability to acquire or consume an adequate or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so”. Article 25 of the United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes a reference to food – “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” In 2016, a UN Economic and Social Council report criticised the UK Government, stating bluntly their concerns “about the lack of adequate measures adopted by the [UK Government] to address the increasing levels of food insecurity, malnutrition, including obesity, and the lack of adequate measures to reduce the reliance on food banks”. Since that stark warning was issued, foodbank usage has continued to rise…

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