Friday, August 24, 2012
Lambeth council is turning to food banks in order to manage the crisis of soaring poverty in the borough. This is never a good sign. When soup kitchens started to appear in large numbers in the US during the 1980s, it was supposed to be a form of crisis management. Now they have become a threadbare safety net for masses of jobless and working poor Americans as the welfare system fails them. Dependence on charitable food provision has soared during the recession. Evidence suggests that they don't begin to meet the nutritional needs of those who use them.The trend is for what is supposed to be a temporary stopgap to become a permanent part of the welfare system. It turns welfare into an entrepreneurial wild west, dependent on often inexperienced providers, institutionalising and stabilising chronic insecurity and undernourishment for millions. Whereas in the postwar era poverty was residual or the product of the economic cycle, it has acquired a structural permanence. Nor can this be assumed to be an accidental outcome. States that cut welfare systems are knowing actors, well-placed to evaluate the predictable effects of their actions.