11 December 2014

There are hungry people in wealthy countries too...

Text adapted from an article in THE DAY:

Around 13 million Britons live below the poverty line, and the situation is getting worse.

A damning new government report shows that rising food prices and stagnating wages have led to a huge surge in the use of food banks.

Over 350,000 people relied on the 420-plus food banks in Britain in 2012-13; this is almost triple the number for 2011-12.

Food banks receive public and corporate food donations, which is then distributed to those in need. They have become a lifeline for those who, with electricity bills and rent to pay, are at risk of going hungry.

The report's authors say their “anger knows no bounds” towards Britain’s supermarkets, which throw away thousands of tonnes of unsold edible food every day.

A charity called FareShare provides one million meals a month from saved food, but this is just two percent of all the food that is wasted.

The government says it will take action to help Britain’s beleaguered food banks and to address the supermarkets’ throwaway culture.

Should we feel that concerned though for the poor in wealthy countries? After all, while the deprivation on our doorsteps might tug at our heartstrings, our real focus should surely be on the 842 million people around the world who live in extreme hunger and face a genuine struggle to survive…

Some argue, however, that the world’s hunger problems are overwhelming, unsolvable, or not our concern. After all, charity should start at home; we can at least help ease the suffering of those around us, who may well be people we know and, at some point, even ourselves…

Questions/to do:
  1. What, according to the article, are the causes of hunger in the UK?
  2. What is the population of the UK?
  3. How wealthy is the UK?
  4. Is the percentage of poor people in the UK higher than in France?
  5. Are there food banks in France?
  6. Would you be a volunteer for a charity like FareShare?
  7. List some of the charities that try to solve the problem of hunger in the world.
  8. Prepare a 60-second talk arguing that “charity starts at home”.
Questions with answers:

1) What, according to the article, are the causes of hunger in the UK?
There is inflation in the UK which means that the cost of things is going up. The problem is that people’s wages are not increasing and therefore people are finding it more and more difficult to buy even the basics, such as food, and pay their bills and the rent.

2) What is the population of the UK?
About 64 million people.

3) How wealthy is the UK?
According to official figures, the UK is the fourth richest nation in the world (after the United States, Canada and Germany). In 2012, GDP (gross domestic product) per capita was £21,692 (i.e. the total size of the economy divided by the population).

4) Is the percentage of poor people in the UK higher than in France?
Yes, there are more poor people in the UK than in France. 16,4 % of the population (80 million people) live below the poverty threshold in the European Union, if fixing the threshold at 60% of national median income on the basis of 2010 data. With 13,5%, the poverty rate of France is among the lowest in Europe. In the UK, it is 17,1%. Romania is the country with the most poor: 21,1%. The Czech Republic is the country with the least poor: 9%.

5) Are there food banks in France?
There are 100 « Banques Alimentaires » in France. Nearly one and a half million people use them (200 million meals per year).

6) Would you be a volunteer for a charity like FareShare?
Yes, definitely. Charities like FareShare depend on all the volunteer help they can get because the problem of feeding a growing number of poor people is so vast.
Alternative answer: No, I do not see how I could be of any use, and, quite honestly, I have my own problems to deal with (like feeding my own family!).

7) List some of the charities that try to solve the problem of hunger in the world:
  • FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN
  • WFP: World Food Programme of the UN
  • FEBA: Fédération Européenne des Banques Alimentaires (European Federation of Food Banks)
  • AAHM: Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition
  • ACF International: Action Against Hunger

1 comment:

  1. Real charity is giving to those in greater need than oneself without expecting something in return (other than the satisfaction of having done a “good deed”). One can, as much as possible, share food, clothes, money, shelter, one’s time and skills.

    To belong to a society surely means helping its members and, when the need arises, being helped by them.

    “Charity starts at home” means that one’s priority is to take care of oneself and the people who depend on you (your family, friends and neighbours) before taking care of people you do not know. I think this is what most people who have a sense of responsibility do; one should rely on oneself and not become a burden on society.

    I am not saying that one should not feel concerned by the plight of the people one does not know personally, but it cannot be a priority. The help I can provide the people living in my town, my country, and the rest of the world, is necessarily going to be more limited. I can still act as a good citizen though by giving to charities that do work at those levels, but only if I have the means.

    One should have a charitable attitude, but one also needs to get one’s priorities right: I take care of my own first, then I can help others.

    It is interesting to note that the UK has one of the highest percentages of poor people in the EU, despite the fact that it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and its people pride themselves on having a charitable attitude. The UK has a neoliberal economic system, and the Conservative-run State is cutting back on social security spending. Despite the great number of charities and volunteers, the UK does not appear to be able to solve its problem of increasing wealth disparity (the UK was the only country in the G7 to have recorded rising inequality in the 21st century). Charity does not appear to be sufficient in solving poverty on a large scale. Perhaps, in the UK, the government should follow the adage that “charity begins at home” too, i.e. in the UK, and deal seriously with getting rid of poverty (after all, it is a very wealthy country). In France, where people give less to charity, poverty is less prevalent than in the UK (though France has a lower GDP per capita figure). Perhaps, the French do not need to give to charity so much, because they consider that taking care of the poor is the responsibility of the State?