Category Archives: Charities

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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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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Reading for Bhopal

Tonight at 7pm the 16th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair begins – 24th to 28th October, opened by Richard Gott:

The book fair celebrates themes, writers and small, independent presses which may be neglected by more mainstream festivals. Every year it brings to Edinburgh a mixture of readings, book launches, film screenings, exhibitions and workshops.

There are many reasons for going along to the Out of the Blue Drill Hall any day of the week (the coffee and cake are only two). During the whole of the alternative book fair, Owen Logan has a photographic exhibition based on Flammable Societies: Studies on the Socio-economics of Oil and Gas.
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Supermarket Food Programme

BBC Food Programme - Big Food Idea The Big Food Idea on the BBC Food Programme is supposed to be for

an innovator who is improving the way good quality food is sourced and sold

But one of the finalists this year is not in that category: Sainsbury’s has been nominated.

Sainsbury’s are tax dodgers and Lord John and Lady Sainsbury have dined with David Cameron in Downing Street and have donated nearly a million to the Conservatives since June 2006. Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative peer.

Conservatives usually claim that they’re the way they are not because they want to make rich people richer and poor people poorer (that’s just the unfortunate side-effect of how their policies of tax cuts for the wealthy, high unemployment, benefits and services cuts for the rest of us, tends to work out). What they want, they usually say (with a nod at Ayn Rand) is to promote self-reliance and personal responsibility.

That even sounds moderately convincing until you take a look at the effect their policies have on children.
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Charities and politics

A charity is allowed to engage in politics. A charity is not allowed to do party-political campaigning.

The distinction is made clearest whenever there’s an election. If a charity wants to comment on any one party’s manifesto, they have to comment on them all. They may possibly just get away with only commenting on the five major parties – the ones with seats in Parliament – but they cannot pick and choose.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is a registered charity. Their mission is “To support people to take voluntary action to help themselves and others, and to bring about social change.” Continue reading

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Beatrix Potter and the National Trust: for science

Beatrix Potter wrote fantasy stories for children that were grounded in her scientific understanding of real animals and plants. The National Trust, her chief heir, is now promoting stories to children that are intended to give them a warped understanding of the geological history of the Earth. Does this make sense to you? It’s confusing me.

Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck and and Mr Jeremy Fisher, Mr Tod and Tom Kitten, the Flopsy Bunnies and the Tailor of Gloucester: the people of the floppy ears and bushy tails, the hedgehog who takes in washing, the frog who fishes with a rod and line, the rabbit with a nice new blue jacket, and the cat who hid the cherry-coloured twist. There never was a rabbit in a blue jacket or a hedgehog that took in washing, but they are real beasts in the pictures she drew.

The books and toys – written, illustrated, designed, licenced by Beatrix Potter from the age of 36, bought her freedom from the duties of being, as the unmarried daughter, her parents’ unpaid housekeeper. But before she became a writer of fantasy stories for children, an illustrator and a toy designer, she was a scientist:

At the age of 26, Potter began corresponding with a rural postman and enthusiastic naturalist named Charles McIntosh, who was interested in fungi. He promised to send Potter samples of new species he discovered by mail, so she could draw them. Throughout their long partnership, Potter drew detailed, accurate pictures of 350 fungi, mosses and spores, mailing one copy to McIntosh, and keeping one for her own records.

With drawings she made from her observations of lichen, Potter believed she had evidence that the organism consisted of a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, algae. Continue reading

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Edinburgh Farmers Market

Edinburgh Farmer's Market - Saturday 9th June
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Cardinal shame

In a BBC1 Scotland interview yesterday, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, best-known for comparing same-sex marriage to slavery, said it was immoral “just to ignore” those suffering as a result of the credit crunch.

Douglas Robinson and Michael Elsasser marry in New York Am I not a man and a brother?
Cardinal O’Brien thinks these two things are the same.

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You can’t be cured when you’re not ill

You can’t “cure” someone of having a sexual orientation.

Individuals and groups who claim they can cure a person of being gay are either bigots or frauds or, quite possibly, both.

The Catholic hierarchy has dealt with the priests who molest children in several ways. For decades at least, they ignored the crimes and covered up after the criminals. (There is written evidence of reports made to the Vatican in 1962 and to Pope Paul VI a year later, about child-molesting priests being returned to parish work where they would again have access to children.) They also attempted to pin the blame on gay men being admitted to the priesthood: but painstaking evidence was gathered to show this was factually wrong. And in some horrible instances, the Church seems to have done both: Continue reading

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Edinburgh: Ban Chuggers

No one likes chuggers. Everyone has a preferred tactic of dealing with them. (Mine, if I can’t dodge them completely, is to say flatly and at once “I never give out my bank details on the street” and walk on. Occasionally they try to argue with me, but I’m not stopping for that.)

Andrew Napier claimed in 2002:

I’ve found that humour helps. ‘Do you want to hear my joke for the day?’ usually gets people to stop. If they listen to my lame, cheesy joke, they’ll usually hear me out about the charity as well.

Of course there’s a bit of flirting sometimes, but it’s a matter of definitions. If I talk to a guy, it’s conversation; if I talk to a girl it could be called flirting. Although I did go out for coffee with someone once…

Stavvers’ reaction in 2011:

“You’ve got a pretty smile,” another says with a creeping grin. “Come and talk to me.” He tries to grab my arm. I walk away, as fast as I can.

These interactions happen on a regular basis. Often it’s the usual, the leery-beery tiresome street harassment of daily life, the drunks, the creeps, the men who want to make women feel uncomfortable.

Sometimes, they are not. The men in the incidents outlined above are wearing bibs and told to harass women in the street by major charities. The techniques employed are identical. The objectifying icebreaker. The assertion that they “only want to talk”. The unwanted contact, the grabbing, the following.

The only differences between “chugging” and bog-standard street harassment is the bib, and the fact that you know exactly what it is that the chugger wants.

In Glasgow, from the end of April, chuggers will be restricted to 13 locations (half in the city centre, half elsewhere), a maximum of five at any one location on any one day, and will be out chugging only two days a week at any one location. The timetable and locations are listed here, to give you fair warning and blank them. This is the first regulatory agreement signed with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) in Scotland.

Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said:

“The issue of street-fundraisers is a source of annoyance to many shoppers and visitors to Glasgow. However we recognise that charities have the legal right to fundraise on our streets, but we must ensure that people working, living and visiting Glasgow are not inconvenienced by this practice.”

But really – is there any reason to tolerate chuggers at all?

A former chugger who wanted to remain anonymous told the Telegraph it was a lucrative job:

“I got £7 an hour, plus £30 for every sign-up you got after the eighth, which meant that the better fund-raisers were on a stupendously good wage. Continue reading

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