We need to talk about stock cubes and hot water

Chris Mould thinks the media should focus on the stories that matter when it comes to UK hunger.

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‘Client told me her & husb have stock cubes & mug of hot water for dinner 4 x week so that their kids can eat’ tweeted Rob McDowall, Director of the Scottish Welfare Support and Advice Network yesterday.

I’m asking myself the question, if the Sun wanted to write about food poverty and foodbanks, wasn’t this the story? Why did they choose instead to spend a week digging around actively trying to find something to discredit the UK’s biggest foodbank charity?On Easter Monday, the Sun ran a full page non-story attacking the Trussell Trust for tenuous and supposed hypocrisy. Was there any mention of the fact that thousands of parents are going hungry to feed their children in the UK this Easter holiday? No.

For me, this is the real story – or at least it should be. So why are certain sections of the media so determined to undermine anyone who speaks out about the reality of hunger and poverty in the UK? Last Easter, the Mail on Sunday ran an undercover investigation at foodbanks, trying to attack them, and those who need them. It notoriously backfired. This year it was the Sun.

But why is food poverty such an uncomfortable truth for some that they’ll do anything to deny the issue, pretend it’s not happening, and discredit those working – often for free – to alleviate the problem?

I think it’s time we buried the hatchet and faced the reality of what’s happening in the UK.

Today, hundreds of mums in the UK will go without food in order to save money so that they can feed their children over the Easter holidays. There could be any number of reasons for this – redundancy, not enough work, low-pay, a problem with benefits, domestic violence or simply just an unexpected bill. The day-to-day experiences at foodbanks tell us that UK hunger is real, and it happens every day. This shouldn’t be happening in one of the richest countries in the world. That’s why charities like the Trussell Trust talk about it. It’s why we don’t stay quiet just because it would be easier or more comfortable.

Foodbanks and food poverty do not have to be party political issues. The problem is that foodbanks have become a political football. And all this noise means that the voices of people in poverty are not being heard.

We rarely hear about the mum and dad who are surviving on stock cubes and hot water. Instead we hear reports of politicians bickering about whose fault it is that people go to foodbanks, and whether the people using foodbanks are deserving or not. I think, in all this, we are in grave danger of missing the point.

And the real losers here are the families who will go to bed hungry tonight whilst we’re all arguing.

It’s time to put partisan viewpoints to one side. We need to listen to the mums, dads and kids in our communities who don’t have enough to eat. We need to listen, and then act to address the underlying causes of food poverty. Perhaps then, next Easter, there will be fewer stories of parents surviving on stock cubes that need to be told.

Chris Mould, Chairman. 

This piece was originally published on HuffingtonPost.co.uk on 8 April 2015.