Food Banks My friend’s experience.

Food banks; another personal perspective.



This is just another story and one that will be familiar to many of us. In a nation which is one of the richest in the world, people still go hungry and now depend on charities to get food. The Trussell Fund fund helped 128,687 people last year, this year it expects to feed more than double that number. This is a story of one of these statistics and there are many more like her.


My friend G. started using her local food bank two weeks ago. She felt ashamed to have to ask for food. She was given a yellow voucher by her Community Psychiatric Nurse who could see she was struggling. G felt so ashamed having to ask for help but with no family and not wanting to rely on friends she decided to go She asked me to go too for some support and to see what a visit to a food bank was like.


We went along last week to the food bank. It is in a church in the big town G. lives in. She had to knock to get in and was met by a volunteer who brought her in. It was extremely busy there were about twelve other people there. The volunteer who was kind offered us a cup of tea. She spoke to us about hard times and how we were loved. The food bank was their way of showing practical support.


The manager came down with two bags of groceries. She explained each was meant to last a person three days. There was pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes, and fruit. Bizarrely they also contained a jar of marshmallow fluff. Food that described itself as “artificial” and was made from 100% corn oil. It reminded me of being back at school and being asked by the teacher to bring in some tins for the “old people” who we made up hampers for at Christmas. In my household like many others my mum used to search the back of the cupboard for something like a tin of pears that had been there awhile. This bag brought those memories back. They also gave my friend some cleaning materials and toiletries.


All of the volunteers were kind people and they are meeting such an unmet need. There’s is a Christian message they even asked my friend if they could pray for her which she politely declined. As long a she remains in need she can go to get a golden ticket once a week for a supply of three dates. For many though having to rely on a charity is embarrassing. The trussell fund only give three days of food as there’s is a message on self reliance and not making people dependent. The question they should ask is who is why is there such a need today and who makes people have to ask for handouts. There were people using Food Banks before the condemns came to power but the numbers using them have quadrupled since. We know have people living alone with little energy to fightback. Getting by living on processed food, the only entertainment being the media with their oh so biased news coverage and spin on everything it is panem et circens my friend.

My friend is poor not because she is “feckless” as the condemns would have us believe but a victim of circumstances that can affect us all. I know some people reading this will have used a food bank. Why should this be seen as Christian? What should we do to help ensure such places along with soup kitchens are just a scene in a Dickensian novel. By looking at he small things and offering support perhaps we can tackle the problems of the bigger picture too.

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Food banks are not acceptable



Despite the so called crisis in the banking sector, one type of bank’s use continues to strip demand. In a time of austerity the use of food banks are on the rise. Over 500,000 people have now been fed by them including 14,000 Scots last year alone. In a time when benefit cuts are impacting on the lives of so many, the only source of help available is a voucher to provide a three day supply of food. Most of the food banks have been set up by the Trussell fund linking in to local churches. They claim to be a non political but have strong links with the conservative party.


Chris Mould the director has links with The Shaftsbury group who describe themselves as a “social business”. One of the board of directors Neil Atkins is a tory party councillor and the Mayor of Worthing. The Shaftsbury group recently congratulated one of their staff Will Gallacher on his recent appointment as special advisor to Chris Grayling. Vouchers provided by the trust are now used instead of crisis loans to give people an emergency three day supply of food rather than the crisis loan which as part of the condems welfare cuts were quietly “devolved” to local authority control in April of this year. The harsh reality is that cash strapped local authorities now distribute vouchers for the Trussell Fund instead of a small amount of money which an individual could use to choose the type of food they would like to eat.


Annie” who has recently been removed from ESA and placed onto job seekers allowance despite being unfit for work for many years is typical of many people who are forced to use a food bank. In Scotland there has been a 150% increase in the number of people having to use one. Half of these are casualties of benefit cuts and direct result of their benefits being reduced withdrawn or stopped. A month ago after found fit for work by ATOS her benefit payments were stopped for three weeks and her community psychiatric nurse gave her a token for a food bank in Renfrewshire. She is a proud woman but had no choice but to go along to a local church where the food was disributed. She told me that the volunteers were kind but that they had offered to pray for her to help her situation. She was given a three day supply of food. The food is collected from members of the charity and are all tins and packets. I saw the food she had been given and it reminded me of the collection of tins you might get from a harvest festival at school where items are found from the back of cupboards and collected to be disributed to the needy. There is also no fresh food available though some food banks provide fruit or a vegetable. This food did help keep Annie going for a few days but she said she felt like the recipient of charity and pitied by the volunteers. Her story reflects the experiences of many.


In 2010-11 The government paid out 228 million pound in crisis loans These were small amounts of money to tide people over and would be reclaimed from benefits It gave people the means to buy very basic food but they contolled where and what they bought. Food banks are nothing more than another step further down the road to the bad old days when no pay mean hunger and starvation. It is not acceptable that when Cameron takes his place in the G8 this week thousands are having to rely on charity to eat. Unfortunately for many Food Banks are the only option they have in a very harsh financial climate.

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Food banks are not acceptable



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Food Banks A Personal Perspective



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Food Banks symptom of a wider cause.





The Scottish welfare committee heard evidence last week from two social researchers from Heriot Watt University. Dr. Nicola Livingstone and Dr. Filip Sosento presented the findings of two years of research into an overview of the providers of food aid in Scotland There evidence backs up the voices of users of food aid in Scotland about the impact of welfare reform and benefit sanctions on the most vulnerable in society.


As part of their research they interviewed food bank providers from all over Scotland from rural Angus to Glasgow City. All of them said that food aid use had increased since benefit sanctions had become more serious and with the introduction of welfare reforms in April 2012. They pointed out that Lord Freud’s statement that the use of food banks had increased before welfare reforms was “inaccurate”


Of all the food aid providers the Trussell Fund remains the biggest. In Glasgow 20% of food aid providers were community based. Throughout the rest of Scotland all the providers were the Trussell Fund. This is concerning. As previously reported with their links to the Conservatives and churches their aim is emergency food provision only. They will only provide users with a three day of supply of food three times a year. What do people do to survive after this? Only in Glasgow City can people in need rely on a regular supply of food.


Groups like the Maryhill foodbank have gone beyond the limitations set by the Trussell Fund. In partnership with local groups and churches they provide weekly food and a cafe which provides hot food. For those that cannot afford to cook, this may be their only access of a hot meal. Those who rely on food banks are different from the users of soup kitchens, they usually have their own home but their impact has been slashed for a number of reasons. The evidence presented to the committee was that people in their own home find that they cannot afford the basic essentials of food and even being able to afford the energy costs of cooking a meal. What a society we live in.The safety net we take for granted is being torn apart. Crises payments are now being administered by local authorities. However those whose benefits have been sanctioned are not elegible to apply. Benefit sanctions have almost tripled since 2008 and they are becoming much harsher. Many people are left without any income for up to three months. The only means of support they have is food aid or using a soup kit



Food aid providers rely on donations from global corporations for food they can supply Some may call this global responsibility others global guilt. Politicians of all colours may murmur that food aid should not exist but are always happy to pose for pictures in the local press on why we should donate a can. Most of the coverage given is to food banks provided by the Trussell Fund meanwhile some food aid providers are running out of food. This week in Glasgow sees Glasgow Central Station being used as a depot for donations of food as they have ran out of provisions.



Food aid is becoming part of the safety net. Social workers, psychiatric nurses and those working with the most vulnerable as pat of statutory services now as a matter of course refer those they support to food aid providers. Politicians condemn them but are happy to use them as a photo opportunity. We on the cusp of an Independent Scotland have to ask ourselves do we wish to go down the route of America and Canada and quietly, slowly, but carefully allow them to be seen as part of the welfare state. In Canada the Freedom 90 group campaign completely against the use of food banks and insist that people having enough to eat is a human right and the very basic that a government should provide for its citizens. Writing this I reflect that things are getting worse even since the Voice reported on food aid use a few months ago. The report from social researchers backs up all the anecdotal evidence. I hope those in power will listen to the report, not just quote how terrible food aid is.. Our aim should be to share that they should not be necessary and campign for an Indepndent Scotland where they have no place. That is the vision we have a rsponsibility to share

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The Getting of Wisdom A short story.





I was on spotting and entrapment duty at one of favourite watering holes. James and Sinclair were outside with the equipment while Michael was waiting at base camp. We had only been doing this for six weeks but had already established a routine that ensured everything went smoothly. I stood ever so casually at the bar of yet another cheap out of the way nightclub. The stench of eighties electro-pop permeated the air like a whiff of Old Spice aftershave. The punters were the same old who came here on a Friday night cos they always had. I knew their type well by now and scanned them for a likely volunteer. There he was right in the corner guzzling down a pint. I profiled him. Aged thirtyish, he looked well kept but not by a girlfriend probably a mammy. A girlfriend wouldn’t let anyone go out like that?. Unless of course she hated him and that would take her out of the equation anyway? His clothes were cleaned and ironed definitely a mammy. Small and on the thin side. Height five foot four I guessedimated. He wore the kind of boots workmen wore not much brain power there and not too physical to cause any hassle. I adjusted my breast to show a bit more of my cleavage and walked over towards him. I had to ensure he fitted our wish list exactly. I decided to go to routine number six,I hurried past him and bumped into him ensuring half his pint went down his trouser legs.


I smiled at him. “Ach clumsy me I’m so sorry. Here want a cloth? Let me buy you a pint. Here’s a wet wipe.”

I had learned these techniques at a workshop we had designed around Derren Brown and his mind control techniques .One of these was called information bombing and destined to confuse. I think the pints he had consumed before helped too.


He looked at me trying to suss out the answers to all the questions taking the napkins I proffered out of my handbag.


Don’t worry I’m fine, no harm done eh? Just as well it’s Friday I only change my shirt once a week.”


I smiled back at him while looking at his teeth. Great it looked as if he needed some work done. Even a cursory glance showed a moderate level of dental decay something we could handle. Tonight was going to be a fruitful night.


Let me at least buy you a drink, what’s your poison? My name’s Clare, what’s yours?”


He seemed surprised I was even talking to him. In the usual compatibility stakes we both knew I was way out of his league. However social conventions dictate that if you spill someone’s drink you buy him another. All the usual social nuances had to be adhered too.


Stevie” he said. “Awright Clare just get me a pint of heavy, thanks” He said.


I went to the bar and while waiting to be served texted Sinclair.


Am In here with a volunteer. Text Michael and tell him to get ready.”

GR8 CU 30 mins?” he texted back.

After I’d been served I put in the premed just enough to make him susceptible and ready to go along with us. Of course he would remember none of this later. Sinclair’s sophisticated pharmaceuticals would take care of that. The time window was limited now. I had twenty minutes to do a risk assessment and get him into James car before the medication took affect.


I walked over and noticed he was sitting at a table. I was aware that other men were looking at me and him. Not in that well done mate envy they would address to the mate but more of who the fuck is that lucky bastard. Good this wasn’t his local I thought then. Sitting down suited me best and right under a lamp where I could look more closely at his teeth. I couldn’t have designed it better myself.


I smiled and put the pint in front of him.

Sorry again I said. I leaned forward. “but at least it gave me the chance to talk to you. I hadn’t noticed you before.”


He blushed and took a sip of his pint. Good he didn’t notice anything. It was meant to be tasteless but we have had to abort as couple of the volunteers thought their drink was off.


This is only the second I’ve I’ve been in here Clare. I just started work round the corner on Monday.”


I smiled back while looking inside his mouth. Perfect two distial amalgams that needed replacement that would do for tonight. This was the part of the operation I least enjoyed. I was (nearly) a medical professional after all. Of course I felt a little guilt but then I reminded myself that was was guerilla dentistry we were doing this man a favour treating him for free. Alright technically it could be described as illegal administration of controlled substances and kidnap but we hadn’t been caught yet.


I spent the next fifteen minutes checking how much he had drunk, a very brief medical history and observing him for signs the pre med had started to begin. Twelve minutes in I noticed his pupils were dilated, his speech was slurred. Time to make a suggestive remark. He was right for the picking.



Stevie” I said as modestly as possible. “I don’t really know you, I’m not this type of girl but do you fancy coming back to mine for a coffee? Just the one mind. Maybe you could stay the night?”


He looked at me and giggled then shrugged his shoulders.”

That was one side affect of the pre med it freed the volunteers from any social inhibitions and thoughts of repercussions.

Get you’re coat Clare doll yiv pulled.”

I took my mobile out of my pocket. “Stevie my flatmates are giving me a lift home. It’s just they worry, is that okay?”

Course it is doll. Anything you want.”


I escorted him outside where James and Sinclair were waiting and opened the door for him. He stumbled into the back. I sat beside him


I introduced them. “Stevie this is James and Sinclair.”


Hello” said Stevie. “pleashed to…” followed by giggles and a slight snore.


I checked to see that he was asleep. He was fast asleep. Gentle rhythmic breathing and strong regular pulse. Good.


Tonight Gentlemen we are going to perform two distial amalgam fillings. Uncomplicated easy fifty minutes top. Sinclair are you performing tonight.


Aye” said Sinclair. Fitzpatrick will be pleased. He was moaning about my practical experience last week again. Dad had to talk to him it is not my fault I don’t get enough practice is it?” He was right.I mean we live in the West with some of the worst teeth in the Industrial world and we weren’t allowed to practice on real people?


James snorted. “your dentistry maybe. Well you need to get seventy five percent before you’re let lose on people. Think of this as extra curricular experience.”

We had partied hard at Dental School scraping by in everything but good times and debauchery. We were all in the same tutorial. all from the same school and used to mum and dad bailing us out. They couldn’t help now though. It wasn’t as if the dental school had a PTA. It wasn’t until final year that the new head of department Prof Fitzpatrick has started a new rule. Only students who got more than ninety percent would be allowed to practice under supervision at the dental hospital. We four financially supported by mummy and daddy decided we would do a public service bring guerilla dentistry to Glasgow til we had improved enough to be unleashed on willing patients.


We knew it would take exactly twenty minutes to get to Michaels’s. His father’s practice was part of their house.Michael’s mother and father were never home at the weekends. The stress of dealing with so many people in pain meant they retreated to their country cottage where they entertained themselves with their shared passion ornithology. Rumour has it that Michael’s dad engages in some interesting bird watching of his own but who were we to judge.


When we arrived Michael met us with a wheelchair which we carried the still sleeping Stevie into. The amount of pre med we had given him was enough to ensure he was happy and content. We might have given him a consent form to chop off his head and he would have signed. Once inside we got him into he chair and Michael administered the anaesthetic pulling down into a deeper sleep. Sinclair in a text book manner drilled his teeth and prepared the filling.


James as always did his marathon routine. “Is it safe yet”.


Right on cue we laughed.”Perfect” said Sinclair. “Have a look.” we were impressed. We patted Sinclair on the back. Michael set up the camera while we posed with our latest volunteer who would thank us if he ever knew. It was time to put this latest operation to bed. Michael stayed to clean up. While James, Sinclair and I got Stevie into the car still sound asleep. Unfortunately our flat was on the fourth floor. We were accustomed to hulking our volunteers up stairs it got easier all the time. That’s why we picked small ones. James undressed him leaving on his underpants he obviously hadn’t expected to pull. He had Christmas Homer Simpson boxers on. Sinclair found his mobile phone and found as predicted mum no other female name. He sent a text saying he would be home in the morning. After all we didn’t want his family to worry


It was four am we estimated he would waken at eight thirty once the anaesthetic had worn off. We sipped wine and watched the first two hostel films. We laughed. They were so over the top. At 7.30 I put on my night dress and slipped into bed pretending to sleep. At nine thirty minutes after expected he stirred. Turned onto his back and said “Oh Shit”. I turned and brushed my hand on his back. And said “Morning Stevie.”


He turned round looked at me and blushed. Jesus Christ. What am I doing Here.”


I tickled his tummy as I would a grateful pet. “Don’t you remember? I know you were a bit drink but you were so good.”

Was I?” “I can’t remember a thing I have a sore head and my mouth.


Just the alcohol” I said. “Listen I’m sorry I have to go to work in an hour sorry to chuck you out.” I purred. “I just don’t do this sort of thing but thanks”


Seeing that he was considering kissing me, I got out of bed and brought him a cup of tea. I came back and started putting on clothes. “I’ll give you a lift.”

It was a personal best. Volunteer awake and out of the house put on a bus in sixty five minutes .He’d be none the wiser and thanks to auto suggestion would think he had one of the best night of sex of his life,another successful mission and a volunteer who should be chuffed with the money we had saved him. They should do this on the NHS but anyhow I had some ideas for my PHD…



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A short story. Boundaries.




It’s four O’Clock. My pal Tracy chaps the door. She is just back from Spain She’s told


me ORANJA is Spanish for oranges. I wish we could go to Spain but there’s five of


us. She gives me a donkey with a hat on it’s head. I ken it’s calld a sombrero. After


the holidays when I start High School I’m going to learn Spanish. Tracy’s going too


the only other girl I know from Dryburgh I canna wait. The Summer has dragged on


and on My mum gets annoyed with us tells us we’re under her feet. She sits looking sad.


Coing to Campy?” says Tracy.


I’ll ask my mum” I say.


She has already heard us. “Aye but use the underpass and dinnae go near Tempelton


Woods. Here tak some pieces and be back before its dark.”

Okay mum. Thanks.


Nane of us are allowed near Templeton Wood since that Lassie Lizzie was murdered


there. It was in the tully. I saw her picture and looked at her picture she was affy


bonny would I look like that when I was 19?. We telt our parents what thy wanted to


hear but they worry too much No-one could hurt us whn we were together. Time to escape into Campy.

Campy is a great park right across the Kingsway from me If we have some money we


might play pitch and putt. We also like to sneak into the zoo. I want to work there


with the animals. My favourite is Jeremy the bear He stands there shaking is head


from side to side. It reminds me of Jane Wrycza’s sister who is no right and goes to


school on a special bus she does exactly the same thing. We run to the underpass.


Tracy always decides what we do first. So we go to the big field to clap the horses. Donna and Bobby are there. We are sometimes pals and are no fighting with each


other at the moment. Donna invites me some Saurday nights to come and play when


her mum and dad are at the clubby. No matter how much I beg my mum and dad


winna let me go. I hate it. I feel so closed in There are five of us. Donna and Bobby’s


house is beautiful. I has a carpet on the wall of a stag on a hillside. I wish my parents would buy things like that.



Donna whispers. “Look at that man over there. I hink he’s a pervert. He’s been


following us and waving at us.”

I look he is blonde and quite at and is wearing a red tracky and a white t-shirt. He is


pretending to be clapping a horse but we can see him looking at us sometimes.


I’m scared” says Bobby who is only ten is he a bad man?”


Tracy who is brave says “Cmon we’ll follow him.”


The man signals us and walks down towards the nature trail. I like the nature trail it is


so peaceful and dark. Tracy and me go looking for treasure there sometimes. We


look in old bags which people have thrown away. Mostly it is auld claes. I am


looking for clues. Lizzie was naked. The polis are looking for them. If I found them.


I might be famous. He is right there ahead. We are getting in to he darker bit now


over the wee bridge and he is sill there beckoning us on


Donna tells us that she has seen him four times this week Waiting in the same place.


They like to see him and chase him. It is fun. It is I wonder why a grown up would


be in Campy telling bairns to come into the nature trail with him It is enticing


though. I ken it is dangerous but I feel safe with my pals there are five of us and jist


one of him. It makes me feel powerful. This is a great game better than going to


Spain. Tracy is getting more angry now. She is going red.


Stop” she says this man is a pervert. Tracy is brave. She stps in front of the rest of us


like she was a teacher or something. She is wee but looks much bigger. She shouts at him.


See you you are a bad man. What are you doing here. We are not going to go near


you.Fuck off now or I’ll tell my da. He will come and get you.”


She is powerful Tracy. She makes me feel so much braver like I am in her army I am


proud of her.”


The man laughs. He has a weird smile on his fache then he pulls down his trousers.


All I can is is lots of dark hair and



a willy that’s much bigger than my wee brothers. I start to scream and rush out. I wait


at the underpass crying. I am not brave I am a silly wee lassie. After five minutes


Tracy Donna and Bobby come out.


Listen” says Donna, “Dinnae tell your mum and dad it is our secret.”


Tracy cuddles me. “Aye Sandra dinnae C’mon we’ll go buy an ice pole and have the


pieces in my gairden.”


So we do and move on to the rest of the Summer and the new school awaiting us. We


look but we never see him again.


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