I have talked in this blog a lot about food and its centrality to what Hope is about. Food is of course the one thing no-one can live without.
Yet food is also business. Most of the food in the world is owned or traded by half a dozen companies, like Nestle and Cargill, all non-UK based, who make fortunes from its production and sale. Prices are set to maximise revenue for corporations, not feed the poorest, so people go without food because they have to spend on heating and rent too and the only food they can access week in, week out is from shops selling at commercial prices.
Hope’s new food club, opening early in 2018, will make a contribution to food poverty in Northampton, by giving access to food to a small group of families on low incomes on the eastern Districts. Unlike a food bank, we will charge for most of the food supplied, albeit at massive discounts and with freebies too. This is quite intentional. This is a business and we have to keep it going – it has to be sustainable. But no-one will make a profit – no-one should make a profit from poverty. Every penny in sales will go back into the project, and a good chunk of it will support the growing project linked to it, paying to grow healthy veg, especially salad, which the food club will supply. Some of the people growing it will be trainees learning about horticulture who have been unemployed for a while. This needs money, and we can’t rely on grants and charity alone, important though they are, especially during the start up phase (look out of our pump-priming crowdfunding campaign coming soon). It has to be economically self-sustaining.
Too much of the corporate world – and some charities – are still fixed on the idea that food provision to people in poverty must be free: food given for free by supermarkets and given away free by foodbanks to poorer people. This is unsustainable, and many thousands of people who are not destitute or in crisis, but still short of money for food, can’t get access to this food because they don’t meet the criteria for foodbanks – and who could not cater for them all in any case. There has to be an economic element added to enable feeding poor people on a wider scale, to allow it to carry on. There simply has to be money generated somewhere from the transaction. We have to build alternative income generators within and for poor communities, not rely on charity. For our food club, alongside grants and training income, this will come from the sales income from members’ spending in our pop-up shops. It’s money that would have been spent on food anyhow, but this way, it stays close to home, it goes further, and does good. We think this makes economic sense too.
There is lots more about our outlook on food on the Hope Centre website: http://www.northamptonhopecentre.org.uk/how-food-matters-hope
And on the Hope Enterprises site: http://hopeenterprises.org.uk/Content/Page79.aspx?PageId=531&PageTitle=Hope%20Food%20Club