Posts Tagged 'Christmas'

Feeding the debate: a local food bank explains itself

As we head into a period of seasonal excess today’s guest blog post looks at the importance role food banks have played in drawing attention to food poverty in the UK. Taken from a paper by Heather Buckingham, University of Birmingham and Andy Jolley, Parish of Aston and Nechells published in Voluntary Sector Review.

With Christmas fast approaching, two things that will be on many people’s minds are food and presents. Regardless of people’s religious beliefs, these things tend to feature significantly around this time of year. They also map closely onto two fundamental features of the UK’s food banks: provision of food to those in crisis need, and giving of donations and time to make this possible.

IMG_0023For most people though, Christmas is inadequately represented by food and presents alone, and likewise our recent Voluntary Sector Review paper argues that there is more to understanding food banks than a simplistic narrative about ‘giving food to the poor’. We draw on Christian theology – and our practical involvement in Aston and Nechells Food Bank (ANFB), Birmingham – to paint a fuller and more nuanced picture of the nature and impact of this particular food bank, and explore some of the policy and practice implications of this.

Celebrating relationships

Many people would add family and friends to the list of things that are important about the Christmas period. Presents and food mean little outside of the context of relationships: our giving, eating and drinking is partly about celebrating relationships with people whose lives are in some way inter-connected with our own.

For Christians, Christmas is a celebration of God’s initiative to build a renewed relationship with humanity, made possible through the birth of Jesus, into a situation of vulnerability and acceptance of others’ help. It is this emphasis on the significance of inter-dependent relationships for human wellbeing and flourishing – reflected in the biblical concept of shalom – in which our interpretation of ANFB is rooted.

Often inadequately translated as ‘peace’, the Hebrew word shalom is better understood as embracing a sense of relational wholeness (with God, other people, and the environment), health and wellbeing, justice, having sufficient resources, making a meaningful contribution to society and feeling safe and secure.

Inter-dependence and reciprocity

Viewing wellbeing in this way not only makes a difference in terms of the kinds of encounters and interactions that happen at food bank distribution centres: it also has implications for the messages that food banks and those involved in them seek to communicate to others beyond the local context.

WittonA recognition of the importance of inter-dependence and reciprocity informs ANFB’s emphasis on being a local food bank. The majority of volunteers live in the catchment area, and monthly supermarket collections take place there.

For some, having the opportunity to give food when times are better as well as receive it in a crisis has been important in maintaining a sense of dignity when needing to ask for help. ANFB also provides opportunities for former clients and more vulnerable members of the local community to contribute as supported volunteers. This gives them an experience of teamwork and belonging, and for some has helped them gain confidence and skills and move into employment.

ANFB seeks to raise awareness of structural and policy-related causes of food poverty, including by collecting data to inform local and national campaigning; training volunteers about challenging benefits sanctions; writing to MPs; and giving presentations to local businesses, students and other groups.

Such actions call into question claims that food banks have depoliticized food poverty and let government ‘off the hook’. We suggest instead that food banks have played an important part in drawing attention to food poverty in the UK, in a way that challenges rather than tolerates injustice, whilst also responding to the immediate needs of those who cannot wait for a change of policy or process.

Read Heather and Andy’s paper in full here.

VSR 2015 [FC]For more information about the Voluntary Sector Review as well as link to free institutional trials please click here

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Top 10 most popular blog posts from 2014

Photo 16-12-2014 21 24 05Well, Christmas is pretty much here in the Policy Press office, but just before we go we thought we’d give you the chance to read (or read again) our most popular blog posts from the year. Like a selection box of treats for the brain these are the posts that were most popular with our blog reading community in 2014.

We hope you enjoy them and do get in touch if you have ideas, feedback or comments on our blog, we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime….Happy holidays!

1) FACT: We can’t afford the rich by Andrew Sayer

2) Reviewers’ comments: the good, the bad, the ugly by Helen Kara

3) Inequality: The debate that won’t go away by Alison Shaw

4) 7 questions to ask when watching tonight’s ‘Baby P’ documentary by Ray Jones

5) Race, anti-racism and social work by Iain Ferguson and Michael Lavalette

6) Scotland decides: Could the ‘Yes’ vote deliver a different kind of Scottish society – interview with Gerry Mooney by Rebecca Megson

7) Is there more to the life of an academic journal than the ISI factor? by Kim Eggleton

8) Austerity: the true story by Mary O’Hara

9) Tuam babies: How the English ‘sent back’ unmarried mothers to Ireland – interview with Paul Michael Garrett by Rebecca Megson

10) 5 fabulous reasons to join the Policy Press mailing list by Jessica Miles


Xmas blog Monday 22nd


We look forward to working with you next year and hope you have a happy and healthy 2015
Policy Press offices will be closed from 23 December to 5 January

Austerity Christmas: Why are the most vulnerable footing the bill for the country’s debts?

In addition to the revelry and merry making, Christmas is a time for reflecting on the past year. Director Alison Shaw looks back on the political play of 2014 and throws out some tough questions well worth ruminating on over the turkey and the cake this holiday season.

Policy Press - 018 resizeWhilst we publish work at Policy Press that challenges social problems, our team, like most of our readers and community, will be spending time this Christmas in comfort with families and friends (for which I am extremely grateful). I am conscious however that there are an enormous number of people who face a Christmas of poverty, distress and loneliness.

I can’t help but think, at this time of giving gifts and consuming an abundance of food, what about those people who cannot do this for their children and family, who are suffering from yet more cuts to their income and the services that support them? How do you actually live when your benefits have been sanctioned and you have no money for a month or three – nothing – zero. How about this for Christmas cheer:

“It’s Christmas Day. You don’t do any jobsearch, because it’s Christmas Day. So you get sanctioned. For not looking to see if anyone has advertised a new job on Christmas Day.” (Source: Poverty Alliance)

It is positively Dickensian. And not in the warm, comforting glow of A Christmas Carol.

The surprised look on the childrens faces when Father Christmas tells them he has fogotton the presents Credit: TheirHistory

1930s: The surprised look on the childrens’ faces when Father Christmas tells them he has forgotten the presents. Photo credit: TheirHistory

Reflecting on 2014, we have seen tough public spending cuts in the UK with promises of substantially more taking us back to 1930s level of public spending. What pains me is the severe hardship some of our most vulnerable citizens are in. There is constant talk from all the main parties of reducing the deficit, a seeming consensus, but what surprises me is the lack of animated public debate about this assumption. Surely the political decisions as to where the cuts happen, how much money needs to be saved and over what period needs questioning when the poor and vulnerable are seemingly bearing the biggest burden.

historic picture

I briefly looked at the historic picture to gain a longer view. According to the ONS September 2014 data General Government net borrowing (‘deficit’) was 5.9% of GDP in 2013/14 and gross debt was 87.8% of GDP. I think our debt has ranged from over 200% of GDP during World War II to as low as 25% in 1992, with the period from the 1920s to the mid 60s seeing debts of at least 100%, and often much higher, which seems to suggest we can live for long periods with a debt that is higher than the current one.

“ makes me question whether the mantra that we have to cut the deficit is in fact a political position…”

I guess the key issue is the cost of servicing the debt, and again a longer view helps put the current situation in context: post World War II we paid about 4% of GDP in interest and by the 2000s it had dropped to 2%. The cost is now expected to be around 3%. So it makes me question whether the mantra that we have to cut the deficit is in fact a political position being taken around the size of government and public spending and not based on a necessity, as we are led to believe.

So, the point of all this is to really question why we are pulling back from helping those most in need? I admit to being incredulous that when we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world over 900,000 UK citizens had to be fed by The Trussel Trust food banks in 2013-14 because they could not eat without it. How did we get here?

I’m grateful that there is a growing body of accessible data on the subject of government spending and that we’ve been able to contribute to this over the past couple of months, enabling people to take a closer look at the numbers through publishing books such as Good times, bad times and Why we can’t afford the rich. Getting that kind of research out into the public domain is to my mind essential and it is only by increasing awareness of the cold hard facts, of encouraging people to interrogate the numbers with ever greater attention to detail, that we’re really going to be able to call our politicians to account. This of course is going to be something that will become ever more important as we run into the General Election in the UK next year.

Robin in the snow, Martin Mere. Photo credit: Gidzy

Robin in the snow, Martin Mere. Photo credit: Gidzy

Thanks to the tremendous support we’ve received this year from our authors and editors, customers and readers, retailers and suppliers. Policy Press has had a fabulous year publishing some really ground-breaking and influential work. As we all step back and take a few days’ break I hope that there will be time for reflection, as well as time to recharge batteries, ready to fling ourselves back into the fray in the New Year and keep on keeping on to get us to a better, fairer and more just society.

And now, stepping down from the soap box for 2014, I’d just like to wish you all a truly wonderful Christmas and New Year from everyone at Policy Press.

Season’s greetings from The Policy Press

As the festive break is now upon us, The Policy Press would like to wish you all season’s greetings and a Happy New Year.

We would also like to thank everyone for your contributions and support in 2009. It has been a very exciting year for The Policy Press; we have launched a new website, and with it our blog, published over 60 new titles and continued to produce our highly prestigious journals. Why not get involved in The Policy Press community, you can write an entry for our blog, add your views to current blog posts, sign up to our e-newsletter or comment on individual books using the customer review feature on our website.

As in previous years we will be donating the money we would spend on Christmas cards and postage to charity. In honour of Peter Townsend this year we will be supporting the Child Poverty Action Group. The Child Poverty Action Group campaigns to raise awareness, bring about change and ultimately abolish child poverty in the UK.

The Policy Press office will be closed from 24th December 2009 to 4th January 2010 inclusive. The opening hours for our distributors, Marston Book Services, are detailed below:

Closed from 12pm on 24th December
Normal opening hours: 29th – 31st December
Closed: 1st – 3rd January 2010
Normal opening hours from 4th January 2010

You can still order from our website during this period and receive 25% off ALL our titles.

Claire Sollars, Marketing Executive, The Policy Press

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