The Wrong People!!
Who are these wrong people we keep hearing about?
We finally found out!
Apparently they are people with enough money to buy their own food but instead are either queuing up for an hour, or making false claims, to get a couple of bags of free food!!
Yes, it’s that scandalous.
Apparently some of them have jobs, their own houses and even a car!
Of course those who point this out to us are not being judgemental in the least – they are simply pointing out that these people are the ‘wrong people’.
So, from our viewpoint, the big question is – who are the right people?
Interestingly this question appears to be very difficult for the accusers to answer.
We ask ‘should the person be unemployed, homeless and without their own transport to qualify?’.
‘Of course not!’ is the rather puzzling reply.
So a bit of a conundrum.
We’re a bit confused by all the questions and qualifying criteria which seems to float around.
There’s the requirement from some food banks to know such things as ethnicity, methods of cooking available, age, whether a house or car owner etc,etc.
Do we really need to know those things?
All you end up with is a bunch of statistics which mean virtually nothing and yet more power and control.
Let’s face it, these people are seeking some food which is probably fast approaching it’s sell by date, has been rejected by others. Customers have very little, if any, choice in what they get.
The food has been freely given to the food bank for the very purpose of helping those who need it.
When you add in perishable foods, which will have to be thrown away if they aren’t passed on in a really short time, it’s even more confusing.
So why not change the mind-set, take another look at food redistribution and take a chance with a spirit of generosity towards those who claim they need help – even if they may be ripping us off for whatever weird reason they might have?
It’s not that hard to do – it’s just a matter of ditching any form of power and control which we know is so tempting when you have something other people want, or even very desperately need.
With food bank distributions rising in the UK from 60 thousand in 2010 to 1.1 million in 2015 (Trussell Trust), what if anything is being done to enable users to move back into ordinary shopping, independence and eventual non-reliance on donated food?
As it stands it appears to be nothing. The idea seems to be that traditional food bank donations shall continue but, it appears, with even more stringent ‘qualification’ criteria being imposed.
It seems we’re expected to see through the long-standing economic crisis until it hopefully, eventually disappears.
However, this dramatic rise in food bank donations shows no signs at all of slowing and it’s expected to grow and become an even more significant part of ordinary life.
At BASIC we have a different idea.
Our project allows people choice, dignity and reaches those who, for a million different reasons including pride and shame, will never, ever use a food bank.
It also shows a way back from food bank reliance and reintroduces the aspect of meal planning, personal responsibility which are skills which will be needed once the customer is back into mainstream shopping.
We also do away with the ‘giving to the needy/poor’ or even ‘deserving poor’ which those who have enough like to label those who don’t with.
We are sharing with our community – we are doing with rather than doing to.
The by-products of our project are multiple – we form community by bringing people together regularly, we make use of often under-utilized community buildings, we offer an opportunity for those with social and anxiety issues to shop in a comfortable situation and we produce significant funds for local community projects.
There are so many positives and, apart from the accusation of the wrong people, and there are no negatives we can see.
The mental gymnastics in changing the mindset is formidable – we are so used to the cynical view of unscrupulous people taking advantage that maybe we’ve missed the opportunity before us.
If you can’t deal with the possibility of somebody who has enough to buy their own food laughing at you while they open a tin of beans and chomp away on your custard creams this isn’t for you – on the other hand if you feel it is a price worth paying to enable thousands of people suffering from ‘food insecurity’ to have peace of mind and a way out of food bank reliance this may be perfect for your community.
Remember that spirit of generosity – keep that in mind. Why not be overly generous, after all, as we said before, it’s food which has been donated.
How it works.
It’s as simple as can be.
We collect food which is past it’s ‘best before’ date and is due to be thrown away from local supermarkets, independents and individuals.
Tesco have launched a nationwide scheme via Fare Share, Morrison’s are on board in a waste-sharing project through each community champion at each store. Bakers almost always over-produce as the production versus loss equation makes it viable.
Most bakers have significant amounts of bread left over every day.
We collect the food the night before our BASIC Community Pop-Up Shop.
The food is laid out on tables. The people arrive and instead of a questionnaire to establish their status are offered a standard carrier bag for £1 (with a maximum of two per customer).
They then simply help themselves to whatever is available.
If there are ‘premium products’ – chocolates, jars of coffee etc, they are limited to one per customer on a separate table.
That’s how far our control goes.
There are no restrictions on who can or can not attend. Everybody is welcome.
There is usually a queue forming an hour or so before we open and it often spreads onto the pavement from the church grounds.
Everybody knows that the food is there until it’s gone. Some weeks we will have more than others.
As we’re a registered charity with two traditional charity shops in the town we also offer clothes, shoes and other donated items at 50p a bag.
We offer free (or donate as you feel) tea/coffee, biscuits and cake and also free are two children’s books per customer.
The premises we use is a church which previously had just a single one-hour service on a Thursday each week, usually attended by a core of maybe a dozen people.
After more than two years of lobbying we obtained permission to use it on a Tuesday morning for a few hours.
Now the church has lots of people from the immediate community visiting it each week. These are people who would not usually enter a church. Inevitably, in time, they start to ask about the church and have questions about faith.
The Church of England’s main physical asset in the UK is its buildings which are very often under-utilized.
BASIC Community shops breathe new life into them and encourage use by the very community they were surely built to serve.
We sometimes have on hand the local PCSO and we plan to have professional representatives of groups representing housing and social issues available occasionally to answer any concerns the customers may have.
We also have live music from local musicians which creates a wonderful relaxed atmosphere.
As time has gone by we have heard stories from those in the Pop-Up queue and it’s become very apparent that, despite appearances, car or house ownership or any other judgement values, these are actually the right people.
After our first BASIC Community Pop-Up Shop opened in Felixstowe a few months ago, the idea has expanded.
We are now represented in Leytonstone, London, on the Chantry Estate in Ipswich and at Walton on the outskirts of Felixstowe.
We want more and more Pop-Up’s to open throughout the UK and further afield.
We can offer advice, food contacts and the complete business plan to anybody who would like to open a pop-up.
From our side we ask that the pop-up be called and referred to as a ‘BASIC Community Pop-Up Shop’ and we’re happy to provide a free 6’ banner.
We want the individual Pop-Up’s to keep all the income they get and to put the money towards their own community project.
Our project, to employ a Parish Nurse for Felixstowe, has raised over £1300 to date.
What would your project be?
If you feel inspired by this article, you’re done the mind transformation into a real spirit of generosity and you think it’ll work in your community please get in contact.
It can work in any country and any town, village or city - so why not yours?
Together we can change things for the better!
The BASIC Life Charity