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  • Writer's pictureAlison Aldred

Food Banks Are Not Normal

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

A morning walk with my dog Polly, gave me a few quiet moments to consider the beauty of nature, the care and attention given to new tree growth and how little priority is given to the nurture and nourishment of humans.

The field near my house with newly planted trees.

New life and new growth

Some of the trees in the field are strong and thriving, whilst others are struggling. Does that mean that we should not protect and care for the ones that struggle? Would we knowingly and deliberately plant them in soil with poor nutrients, expose them to the elements and danger from animals and pests? Or is it better to find an environment where the plant will thrive and then shield the tender young trees from deer, dogs, rodents, and sun with protective tubes? Gardeners place a lot of value on soil quality. For example, brassicas grow better in alkaline soil whereas radishes prefer slightly acidic soil. Some plants prefer the shade, whilst others crave the sun. Rosemary grows better in drier soil and tomatoes need a daily water. Gardeners also check leaf colour for signs and symptoms, such as magnesium deficiency or mould.

In short, seedlings are nurtured to become strong, healthy plants.

How different our attitude is to human growth

For the most part, people just don't relate what goes into their mouth with cell growth, how their body is built, or whether certain health conditions, needing numerous prescriptions, could be reduced or prevented by caring about themselves. There will be the occasional finger wagging media post, telling us that obesity is a drain on the NHS and we need to do something about it, drum roll an unrealistic and unsustainable smoothie fast. Or a dietetic led initiative that instructs us to base our meals on grains, without any consideration about how addictive and hyperpalatable the carbohydrate and fat combo can be. Generally though, we are just told to 'eat more veg' when many people think spaghetti bolognese is a balanced meal, because it has a tomato based sauce and that's classed as a vegetable. Ok. Officially a fruit. Finger pointing, guilt and shaming hasn't worked in the past and it's not going to work now, or in the future.

There are NUMEROUS reasons why society is getting sicker and poverty is one of them.

People need hand-holding to health

What sort of society doesn’t support their poorest? What sort of society normalises food banks and tells people to find better paid jobs, when they’re already working three jobs and pay extortionate rent to live in a place with black mould up the walls? Those poorly paid jobs that no one else wants to do, are also the most essential and valuable: carers, cleaners, kitchen staff, cashiers etc. Who is going to do these jobs if they find a better paid one? And now, due to the cost increase of ingredients and fuel, there is a very real possibility that school dinners will either be a smaller portion, or be made from poorer quality ingredients. For many children the school dinner is their only meal of the day and now there is the prospect that it will be a low nutrient one to boot.

Malnutrition Has Long-Term Consequences

Like a plant that needs the right soil in which to grow, a child needs adequate nutrients from their food. Macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) are obviously important for a child to grow and have the energy for day-to-day tasks, but micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are also essential for health. This means, that to just fill their hungry little tummies with bread or pasta is not the answer, nutrient density is! Malnutrition has long-term consequences for physical and mental health, behaviour and concentration, NHS bills, the list goes on.