Trying to hunt down a list of ingredients for my year 7 child to take part in a food technology lesson at school gave me more clarity about food poverty in Bristol. It is real and it’s not the moral or character failing that many think it is.
If you live in Central Bristol, you will know that food shopping options are severely limited. There are two small Sainsbury’s stores, a Tesco Metro and second smaller Tesco on Wine Street. These small supermarkets are considerably more expensive than their larger superstores and carry a limited stock. If you work in town and need a lunch or one or two quick basics, the shops work.
But if you live in Central Bristol and need to do an average weekly family shop, you are paying premium prices.
To access larger supermarkets without a car will mean paying for bus fare which would cost us £9.10.
Supermarkets do have home delivery systems. Some are free with a minimum basket charge or slots start from £1. Having used these before, inevitably things are not in stock, are substituted, or as in one instance, turned up four hours late.
So to order online may mean having to fill up a basket to a certain price or pay for a delivery. To go to the cheaper shops on a bus is already starting to cost a tenner. People with disabilities may not be able to walk the fairly significant distance and carry shopping home without transport.
Remembering the time we lived in the Broomhill area of Bristol, home to a large council estate, there was only one supermarket. Again, it was a small to medium sized Co-Op. The prices were premium prices.
People in poorer parts of the city do not always have access to fairly priced food and are paying delivery and bus fare premiums on top of their shopping. It’s just not fair.
Those families who qualify for Free School Meals (FSM) are effectively loosing benefits during school holidays.
At one Bristol primary school, I was paying £2.25 per school dinner. This would be £11.25 per week. For two children it would be £22.50 per week and for three children £33.75.
For a six week summer holiday a parent with three children on benefits and entitled to FSM could be losing £202.50. For people in deprived areas, this is huge hit, especially considering the prices of basics in metro stores.
I’ve been gradually getting quite cross about the incorrect belief that both working families and families in receipt of benefits are lazy and selfish because they are struggling to afford to feed their children. I also take great exception to people who say that preparing food from scratch is cheaper than buying processed food. Better still, grow it in the garden. To that I enthusiastically say come to St Judes and try that. And, what garden? The only herbs we get in our car park are bags of weed that people drop.
My personal favourite though is don’t have children you can’t afford. Because life circumstances never change do they?
As a family on a low-income in a deprived area, I can say that I don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t take drugs, never go on expensive nights out and definitely don’t have a TV. None of those statements will make the slightest difference to people who think that poor people are money wasters.
Our primary school has also made the move to become a ‘cashless’ school. Whilst that might make it easier on office staff, it’s tough for those who can only scrape the cash together at the last minute. There is the option of having a pay point card so that time-pressed families can traipse around looking for a local shop that might offer this.
It was trying to track down a white cabbage in Broadmead Bristol, a crusade akin to hunting the Holy Grail, that I’d finally had enough of the food snobbery nonsense. Making coleslaw as part of a school subject should not create such anguish and outrage – though I also attribute this to a series of self service machines that would not work.
Although a random fruit and veg stall has popped up in The Galleries, at the time I was hunting this vegetable down, The Galleries went into evacuation. It’s just never simple.
We did have some ingredients from the school’s list in the cupboard, but had to buy:
White cabbage – 79p and eventually found in Tesco Metro
Tubs for finished product – £4.50 Tesco Metro
Mayo – £2.20 Sainsbury’s
Cheese – £1.85 Sainsbury’s
Carrots – 45p Sainsbury’s
Onion – 85p Sainsbury’s
Meanwhile, a tub of 250G ready made coleslaw from Eastmans in Tesco costs 35p.
This is not just about food poverty now, but also being able to access the curriculum in schools. Food is expensive, it’s difficult to hunt down in Central Bristol and when you throw in cookers that break down, expensive electricity or gas to prepare it, to say that people are too lazy and stupid to feed their children is nothing more than privilege.
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