Feed The People

My attention was drawn tonight to a blogger with a large following claiming that nobody starves in the UK. The poor can eat gruel apparently (well I am being facetious but they recommend the poor purchase 1kg of oatmeal in order to avoid hunger). I am not going to share the post but you can easily find it. The writer implies that recipients of benefits and food bank parcels are lazy and lacking in motivation.

Plastic toy food

I grew up on benefits, the youngest of six children. An alcoholic father and a Queen of a mother. The personal is political and the personal matters. I will never stop speaking from lived experience because I know it is powerful and that it matters. I choose to teach from my experiences.

Social policy and the welfare state was the favourite part of my undergraduate degree because I felt it in my bones. I knew the consequences.

This week I showed incoming first year students the film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ at our Sociological Cinema event. 20 years since I first entered this university (before dropping out), here I was showing students a film that depicts the deliberate cruelty of the welfare state. The endless bureaucracy. The digital exclusion of those without access to, or knowledge of, online devices. I forgot how bruising such moments are and all the reasons I dropped out of uni the first time round. When I turned around to face the students it was reassuring to see students wiping away tears and stunned into silence. Social policy should never be boring. This is about real people.

I thank Mr Bryan Scott who was the best lecturer I have ever met. Bryan did not have a Ph.D, do the conference circuit or have 4 star journal articles, but he was the best teacher that I have ever had and I draw from his influence every single day.

We feed the people because they are hungry. My faith tells me this, my childhood tells me this, and trying to be a decent human being tells me this.

We must platform those currently living in poverty and not be distracted by plastic food politics.

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier.

May we never forget people such as Mr David Clapson, a former soldier, who died of diabetic ketoacidosis because he could not afford to keep his insulin in the fridge. The corner said Mr Clapson had no food in his stomach.

May we never forget Mr Errol Graham who died weighing 28kg after starving to death due to his benefits being stopped.

May we never forget Mark and Helen Mullins, a vulnerable couple who died after being driven to despair by poverty. They walked 6 miles a day to a soup kitchen and stored donated vegetables in their shed as they had no fridge.

May we never forget Mr Mark McArdle who died after suffering a heart attack just an hour after being told that his benefits were being sanctioned.

There are thousands of examples I could choose from. Your local press will be sharing more stories of people unable to heat their homes, access nutritious food, replace basic household goods.

As we hear into the most difficult winter that many of us in the UK will have ever known, please let us love and care for each other and fight for the most vulnerable.

Gemma x