Wednesday, February 08, 2023

We need to fund foodbanks, but they shouldn't exist

Former Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway has a piece in Stuff today pleading for continued government funding for foodbanks and food-rescue organisations, pointing out the high return on investment and the valuable work they've done during the pandemic:

Demand for food relief is at record levels. We’re all experiencing the pain of rising food prices. For many families, food costs have gone beyond what they can cope with. More and more working families are queuing up at foodbanks and free stores.

Many are doing it for the first time in their lives. Most believed they would never have to. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins is focussed on the ‘here-and-now’ and on ‘bread-and-butter’ issues. That’s exactly what the food rescue sector is doing: making sure people have bread, butter and some fresh fruit and vegetables too.

A recent study initiated by the Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance showed, conservatively, that for every $1 invested in food rescue, $4.50 worth of social value is returned. That’s a great investment for anyone funding food rescue. The sector doesn’t want the Government to fund everything they do. There will always be a role for sponsors and donors.

But secure Government funding releases organisations to get on with their work. Right now, that's what they need to be doing – feeding the growing number of people going hungry in New Zealand.

All of that is true, and the government should be funding them in the short term. But in the long-term, these organisations simply shouldn't exist. They shouldn't need to exist. The government should be ensuring that everyone has a sufficient income to meet their needs and that no-one goes hungry or has to beg for food relief.

Obviously, that's a huge job, which won't happen overnight. But the government should be committing to doing it, and in doing so, committing to putting the foodbanks out of business. And if they refuse, well, we'll need to vote ourselves a government which will make that commitment.