The Food Ethics Council is a signatory to this joint letter to the Guardian, coordinated by the Food Aid Network and Global Solidarity Alliance for Food, Health and Social Justice. The letter highlights the damaging impact of growing corporate involvement linked to the provision of charitable food aid. It can be read in the Guardian here, or in this follow-up press release. 

“The extraordinary efforts of food bank teams, increasingly backed by corporate involvement, should not blind us to the fact that an emergency food parcel cannot do more than temporarily alleviate hunger. The latest plea for an essentials guarantee from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Trussell Trust and others is testament to the reality that growing reliance on food banks, backed by surplus food redistribution, is an ineffective substitute for poverty-reducing policies.

All 38 member countries of the OECD now rely on a privatised charitable food aid model, often dependent on volunteer labour. The ubiquity of corporate food charity in high-income countries should provide a stark warning. The European Federation of Food Banks and the Global Foodbanking Network collectively operate in 76 countries, including low- and middle-income states. Their mission is to expand “the presence and influence of food banks all over the world”, further anchoring corporate charitable food aid provision as a means to address hunger through surplus food redistribution.

While the expansion of organised surplus food redistribution might seem like a win-win solution, this practice fails to reduce food waste levels while undermining policies designed to address food insecurity. We need long-term solutions based on rights and social justice. Only governments can guarantee these rights. Adopting a “cash first” approach to food insecurity is vital to ensure people can access income before charity, but equally vital is the prioritisation of systemic changes to truly tackle poverty and inequality.

Guaranteeing the right to food and a living income through real living wages, together with adequate social security provision, is essential to ending the need for charitable food aid in all societies.”