Category Archives: Poverty

Food, waste, and hunger

On a blog I frequent, the regulars have come up with a new method of reacting to a racist troll. [New? Though I had not seen it before, I was told it originated on Usenet.] When he posts his crap, they respond with recipes. Or sometimes detailed descriptions of food they’ve eaten, or occasionally cute-dog stories. But mostly, recipes. It can seem disconcerting to go from a vile comment which argues that George Zimmerman was in the right to murder Trayvon Martin, to a lengthy explanation of how to make a vegetarian chilli, but the odd thing is, it seems to be working: the troll isn’t getting the angry, outraged response he lives for, and the regulars can turn what might be a distressing thread about American racism and injustice into a pleasant discussion of smoked chipotles and beans. The troll tries again, and gets another recipe.

Today I saw two posts about food.

Cheeseburger stuffed crust pizza - promoshotFirst, the Observer article by Jay Rayner on what the existence of a thing like the cheeseburger stuffed crust pizza says about our food industry:

Most of the diners here today are going for the £6.99 all-you-can-eat buffet deal. Not me. I am ordering a large double pepperoni pizza with cheeseburger crust. I am consigning myself to my very own grease-stained, cheese-slicked gastronomic hell. I am doing this to shine a light on the way a deformed model of nutrition has come, in the past year, to play a key part in the debate around global food security.

Quickly it arrives. It’s certainly not misnamed. The middle is standard Pizza Hut: a soft doughy base as sodden and limp as a baby’s nappy after it’s been worn for 10 hours. There is a scab of waxy cheese and flaps of pink salami the colour, worryingly, of a three-year-old girl’s party dress. What matters is the crust. Each of the 10 slices has a loop of crisped dough and in the circular fold made by that loop there is a tiny puck of burger, four or so centimetres across and smeared with more cheese. It looks like a fairground carousel realised in food.

In a way, a pizza like this is Pizza Hut being a troll. It exists not because anyone thought a mini-burger at the crusty end of a pizza slice was a yummy idea, but so that food reviewers will write about it. As Linda Moyo noted in Manchester Confidential last October, Pizza Hut is a great place to take kids for a reasonably cheap, reasonably filling, and only moderately unhealthy meal out. (And when I was a broke – and vegetarian – teenager, Pizza Hut was just about the only sit-down restaurant that sold cheap hot meals I could actually eat.) But it’s not that thrilling for two adults:

The all-you-can-eat buffet can be handy I guess, but overall there’s never a time when Pizza Hut is top of the list. A bottomless trip to the Ice Cream Factory doesn’t entice me not being seven and all, and on the whole I find their pizzas utterly average.

To be honest, Pizza Hut would have to do something wacky like squeezing mini burgers into the crust of their pizza and calling it ‘all the fun without the bun’ to get my attention.

Oh, hang on a minute…

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Filed under About Food, Poverty

Arguing the wrong debate

The currency debate is a pure waste of time.

Keep Calm and Waste TimeThe SNP’s line if Scotland votes Yes has for several years been that Scotland will continue to use rUK’s pound. This is a good campaign strategy as far as it goes, since it means people don’t have to think about the logistics of setting up a Mint in Scotland to produce our own coins and a national supply of banknotes: it means people don’t have to think about changing currencies if they go to England/Wales post-independence: it means people don’t have to think about monetary change as a symbol of the huge changes of independence.

So, good campaign strategy, but it’s a completely rubbish way of deciding on a currency for Scotland post-independence.

To counter this SNP campaign strategy, the UK government/Better Together campaign have announced they will not “permit” Scotland to make use of the pound post-independence, and to counter that… but never mind. The whole thing gets indescribably messy, with both sides grandstanding more and more, and the whole thing is an utter waste of time.
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Filed under Economics, Poverty, Tax Avoidance

On stealing food

Iceland Foods - Kentish Town RoadWithin a mile of the Iceland on Kentish Town Road (the Trussell Trust’s find-your-nearest-foodbank map provides this information) there are two foodbanks: Chalk Farm and Camden.

A recent food banks report discovers 960 emergency food providers (food banks and soup kitchens) operating in the UK, and this may not be a complete list.

The Kentish Tower ran an article on then-new foodbank at Chalk Farm Baptist Church in April last year:

Who comes to the foodbank? In theory, people can receive a maximum of three vouchers in a row to discourage reliance, although longer term support is available at the discretion of the foodbank manager. “One thing that has surprised me is how open people are,” said Sammy, “when talking about their current situation. A lot of it is delayed benefits – or people who’ve had an injury and can’t physically work.”

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Filed under About Food, Charities, Children, Poverty

Immigrants are not the problem

Immigrant scary headlinesCheap-work conservatives don’t like human rights: for the principle of human rights, universal and indivisible, stands against the cheap-work conservative need to exploit, use, and abuse everyone less wealthy than they are or than they aspire to be.

It shouldn’t surprise us that so many cheap-work conservative MPs – of all parties – made greedy use of the MP expenses system, and regarded transparency and control of the system as a new tyranny.

Cheap-labor conservatives support every coercive and oppressive function of government, but call it “tyranny” if government does something for you – using their money, for Chrissake. Even here, cheap-labor conservatives are complete hypocrites.

We live in a country where unemployment is at 7.7% after the Department of Work and Pensions has massaged the figures to exclude unemployed people on mandatory government training schemes, and anyone sanctioned of their benefits. Foodbanks across the UK saw a surge in need during the school holidays, as families struggled to feed their children without the benefit of a free school lunch. Even by the DWP’s massaged figures, there are 2.39 millon people out of work.
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Filed under Benefits, Human Rights, Poverty, Racism

Where do you get your scary ideas?

The Centre for Social Justice is where Iain Duncan Smith gets his scary ideas about welfare reform. IDS created CSJ in 2004, after he was sacked from leading the Tory party because he paid his wife £18,000 out of Parliamentary Staffing Allowance.

Of course the big question to be asked of every think-tank is: who’s paying you to generate these reports and ideas? Often, we just don’t know. The Centre for Social Justice gets a transparency rating of “D” at Who Funds You?, the Political Innovation project for promoting open, transparent think-tanks.

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Filed under Benefits, Poverty

Osborne’s autumn stones

George Osborne has bread. Lots of it. His salary, as MP and Chancellor, is £145K annually. His inherited wealth from the family wallpaper company is estimated at about five million. He was a member of the Bullingdon Club at Oxford, for rich boys who don’t have to think about the cost of vandalism, drink, or drugs, and aside from a few stopgap jobs the first year after he graduated in 1992, he’s never worked a day outside the Conservative Party in his life.

osborne, if you want first class services, you've got to PAY for them!Osborne, in case you’d forgotten, is the kind of upper-class man who thinks that he can buy a standard class ticket and take a first class seat.

But all Osborne has for us is stones.
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Filed under About Food, Poverty

Women in black, poppies in red

On Question Time on Thursday night before this remembrance Sunday, Benjamin Zephaniah wore a white poppy, not a red one – and the BBC did their best to angle the cameras so that this would not be visible. I dropped some money in a British Legion collecting box on Friday, but refused the red poppy.

Poppies made by LHPF and displayed by Poppy Scotland
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Filed under Housing, Poverty, War

Daily Mail, Leveson, & Ms Jack Monroe

Richard Littlejohn's column in the Daily MailJack Monroe got monstered by Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail. This is of course something Richard Littlejohn does on a regular basis.

Jack Monroe reacted by pointing out the multiple things that Littlejohn had got wrong:

I’ve read your trash non-journalism ‘comment’ piece about me in the Daily Mail this morning – not because it is a newspaper I read, but because a friend forwarded it to me.

Firstly, I have to commend you for managing to get 20 facts completely wrong in a comparatively short article. But that’s your style isn’t it – never let the truth get in the way of a good smear campaign, or something like that.

This morning, if you search Twitter for “Richard Littlejohn”, @MsJackMonroe is the first listing – Richard Littlejohn himself comes in third. But the Daily Mail and Richard Littlejohn will doubtless see traffic go up from all the people linking to his column: and they don’t care whether it’s negative or positive linkage, because the profits for the MailOnline website are the same in either case.
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Filed under About Food, In The Media, Poverty

How Not To Help Foodbanks, Update

The other night I was invited over to dinner by my parents, who – as they often do – treated this as their “dine out” night (they’re both retired and can afford to treat themselves to a meal out each week) and ordered a vegetarian curryfest from their favourite Indian takeaway.

Give a man a fishAs they often do, they ordered lavishly – and the leftovers were packed up to go home with me. I was walking down the hill to the bus stop, with the fragrant bag in my hand, when I noticed a man sitting against the wall with a blanket wrapped round him, having a smoke. Now, I like curry, but generally don’t eat it two nights running: and the food in the bag had never been taken out of the takeaway cartons. It was safe enough to share. So I asked the man if he’d like a curry, and when he said yes, handed him the bag, and went on my way. It wasn’t exactly generous of me (though I hope he enjoyed it) and was classically helpful/unhelpful: a good meal for a night for one homeless person, isn’t resolving the problem of people going to bed hungry.

On 10th December last year, I wrote a post entitled How Not To Help Foodbanks, in which I discussed why the need for foodbanks was rising and quoted Jason Kuznicki:

Do you want to give food? Add up its retail price. Take that money out of your wallet. Flush 90% of it down the toilet. Send the food bank the rest. You’re still helping more than if you gave the food.
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Filed under About Food, Charities, Poverty

Unemployment is not a sign of bad character

Rachel Reeves became Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on 7th October, Iain Duncan Smith’s new opposite number, replacing Liam Byrne. (She was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 7th October 2011, and she’s been MP for Leeds West since May 2010.) Her first interview as IDS’s Shadow was published in the Observer late on Saturday night – and Twitter exploded. Blogs to read: Paul Bernal’s “Dear Rachel Reeves”; Mike Sivier’s “Sort out the tax dodgers, Labour, then the benefit bill won’t be a problem”; Jayne Linney “Oh Dear Rachel Reeves – You Got it Badly Wrong!!”.

But in the shouting and the tumult, a handful of people seemed genuinely bewildered as to the problem with what Rachel Reeves had said:

Neither Andrew Spooner nor Hossylass seem to have noticed that while Rachel Reeves is enthusiastic about forcing people into “compulsory jobs”, she’s said nothing about what kind of pay those compulsory jobs will get – and she’s made clear that if you are unwilling or unable to be forced, a Labour government will just let you starve homeless.

If you have been unemployed for a year or two, you are desperate. Read Jack Monroe’s speech to the Conservative party conference. You don’t need a kick in the face, you need a job. And there aren’t enough jobs going.

Well, say the comfortable people who’ve never been there, isn’t that what Rachel Reeves is offering?

Rachel Reeves MPImagine this scenario, then. A woman of 23, with a child to support, loses her job. She can’t find work. After a year, she’s summoned to the Job Centre and told that from now on, she’ll be stacking shelves in Tescos, on whatever pay the DWP choose to give her. If the pay isn’t enough to cover childcare? If the job is too far away and there’s no public transport? If she’s applied to Tesco a dozen times for a paid job and been told there were no vacancies because they can get all the compulsory labour they want from the Job Centre, no cost to themselves? If she wanted to find part-time or flexible work so that she could spend time caring for her child? Tough, says Rachel Reeves: take the compulsory job or we’re done with you, you can die on the street for all we care.
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Filed under Benefits, Poverty, Scottish Politics