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World leaders feasted, while kids went hungry to bed: Independent, 23 June.

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Being invited to the G8 summit was a surreal point in the career of a single mum turned breadline blogger turned accidental activist. I started writing a blog in response to a local councillor claiming that “druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining the town”, to foster a culture of transparency not afforded by the sparse minutes of local council meetings. I found myself a year and a half later at the G8 summit, campaigning again for transparency, and my other great passions, food and nutrition.

Listening to Frank, a Save the Children campaigner who, at 16, “had food, but not always enough food” as he grew up as a young boy in Tanzania, I was struck by the similarities in our stories. Despite the miles between us, I had food, but not always enough.

Yet where Frank lives, it is recognised that aid is needed. Hunger is an acknowledged issue, and the UK has subsequently pledged 0.7 per cent of national income to overseas aid to tackle that issue. Figures in The Lancet last Thursday show that 3.1 million children die of hunger every year.

Half a million people in outwardly prosperous, affluent Britain are said to rely on food banks. Hunger in the UK is often invisible. I was frequently told that I didn’t “look like a poor person” as I skipped meals to feed my son, and sat in my flat with the lightbulbs unscrewed and the heating off in the depths of winter. It took a perceptive supervisor at a Sure Start group to see that I always had seconds, sometimes thirds, of the free lunch, and to refer me to a food bank.

Food banks meet a need, but are not the solution. They are very good at pulling people out of the river, but someone needs to go upstream and find out why they are falling in. That person should be the Prime Minister, who had the opportunity to put hunger on the agenda once and for all.

But on Monday night, David Cameron posted a photo of his dinner menu on Twitter, including fillet of beef, violet artichokes and rose creams. A reader of my blog commented: “Pampered Government ministers with full bellies are pontificating on hunger, while children are going to bed, and going to school the next day, having not had a nutritious meal. Sickening.”

The Enough Food If campaign, for which I was at the G8, believes there is enough food for everyone in the world, if world leaders would tackle uneven distribution and unaffordability. But cash that could help nutrition and welfare budgets is lost in tax havens, offshore accounts, and creative accounting.

As the Prime Minister strode out on to the bank of Lough Erne for the outdoor press conference, I held my breath. A few words could end hunger for thousands of children and their families in the UK.

I was disappointed. The Lough Erne declaration was all “we should”, not “we will”.

While I welcome the commitment to international aid, Mr Cameron now needs to get his own house in order, to tackle hunger and poverty issues in his own country, so that he can ask the rest of the world to “do as I do”, not “do as I tell you to do”.

Jack Monroe, The Independent, 23 June.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/g8-summit-leaders-feasted-while-kids-went-hungry-to-bed-8669707.html

Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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17 replies »

  1. “Pampered Government ministers with full bellies are pontificating on hunger, while children are going to bed, and going to school the next day, having not had a nutritious meal. Sickening.”

    Couldn’t agree more, how can these privileged over-fed over-paid people possibly be able to relate to real poverty and hunger?

  2. hi jack this goverment is not for the working class or the poor they just don’t have the connection,it is sad and I am not a negative person but just cannot see them making any change for poverty in the world.what they do need is a good kick up the ar..se.you done the very best you could and we are so so proud of you.Xxxx.

    • NO government (left or right, all the same) understands the working class and the poor!
      All they are interested in is keeping their own privilèges and winning the next election.

      NEVER rely on them!

      • When are we all going to get our heads out of the sand, and realise that none of these parties are working ? why can’t we have one leader who knows what they are talking about. And listen to us folk on the street. Unless we do something, these idiots will continue to bleed us dry.

  3. I have been following your blog for a few weeks now and cant help but think that unless there are people like you in the government – people that have first hand experience in living the real life with real wages- nothing will ever change.
    Thank you for your blog that helps the rest of us keep going.

  4. Wow very powerful jack. Really well said. I fell sick to my stomach that the political ideology spreads the falasy of the feckless& deserving poor when so many people are being worked off of benefits, into poverty when there are no jobs. People working 2 jobs just to stay afloat and people who are spending 12 hours a day job hunting are being made to feel like liars by the benefit advisors. Who would have thought this would be the Conservative way???!

  5. Hi Jack, That’s the problem with governments, they always seem to want to say something without saying anything, they have an aversion to committing themselves. When it comes to overseas aid I cannot help but wonder where all the billions of pounds, dollars and euros end up. It certainly doesn’t seem to end up in the bellies of starving children. There is a charity called ‘Mary’s Meals’ that provides a daily school meal for children at their place of learning in countries such as Malawi, at an average cost of £10.70 per child, for a whole year. The difference it is making to those children’s lives is astonishing. Working on the basis of £10.70 per child per year, with the billions being poured into foreign aid there shouldn’t be a hungry child anywhere in the world, but there is.
    Personally, I think that government needs to change the way it thinks and operates before things get better. In a country such as ours, no one should be going hungry or shivering at home in the winter because they cannot afford the heating bill.
    So keep up the good work you are doing. It’s going to take a long time, but eventually people’s circumstances will improve, even if government has to be dragged screaming and kicking into the real world to achieve it.

  6. ‘Sickening’ is exactly the right term. And yes, as I contemplate my evening meal, I am examining myself very closely and carefully.

    To coin a song.
    :Let the be change on earth
    And let it begin with me . . .

    Or, in older words . . .
    ‘Let he who is without sin throw the first stone . . .’ (and no-one did)

    J x

  7. That’s a very cheap jibe.

    Of course there will be good food served at such events, it doesn’t detract from anything being said or done to counter poverty. Making the representatives dine on stale bread and water wouldn’t help anyone.

    • No-one mentioned stale bread and water. We are entitled to question how the rich are spending our money – if you don’t agree you clearly don’t value democracy very much.
      And don’t you think it’s a *little* crass and thoughtless to be going on social media and showing off your high-class menu at a summit to discuss world poverty (amongst other things)?

  8. It’s a bit depressing if anyone who disagrees is called ‘troll’.

    I disagree to a point, for that matter- it’s fairly typical of any international delegation to display hospitality and I assume/trust all attendees received similar treatment/fare?

    Resenting others isn’t a great way forward- especially if they are the people who enact social change and donate their resources to help others.

    I’m a bit sad that the royal family gets £900000 from the treasury at this time, but neither do I think ‘David Cameron should pay my rent’…there has to be a balance somewhere.

    Join something, help someone, do something by all means ( as Jack Monroe is doing ) but it’s not ‘them and us’ per se.

    Engagement not attack.

    No one has any responsibility to take care of me and my family except me and my family…if that is blocked by red tape I will challenge it, and here is the UK government report on small business recognising this https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/31614/10-1251-lightening-the-load-regulatory-impact-smallest-businesses.pdf

    It shouldn’t be so difficult to make a living from one’s skills- which most people have.

    Too much legalisation and people are trapped from coming up with creative solutions…

  9. I agree there does have to be a balance somewhere, however it never ceases to amaze (and at the same time frustrate) me that these people who are voted into office by the people of the country are then able to make decisions which are so blatantly not what the people of the country want.
    Hospitality is one thing but dining a la carte is something completely different…..these people are civil servants responsible for the money in the purse of whichever country they happen to be serving.

    In my opinion (and it’s the only one I have)…it is irresponsible of world leaders to have the lifestyles and provide the hospitality they do – we have countries being told continually that austerity measures and cost cutting need to be put in place across all aspects of public services and yet fillet of beef, violet artichokes and rose creams was part of the hospitality …would that this was an isolated incident of hospitality.

    Ingoodfaith “No one has any responsibility to take care of me and my family except me and my family…”
    I agree wholeheartedly, however the people who are put in office to provide a service to to my country and form an alliance with other countries have a responsibility to demonstrate that they provide value for money…..I think this demonstrates quite clearly that in some areas quite obviously they are not…..

    Mr Cameron was rather naive (or ignorant…or put in place whatever word you would prefer) to think that posting the menu (which was obviously very nice and he seemed to think was worthy of a comment) at a summit on hunger was not going to draw negative comments of the “pampered politician” kind.

    I absolutely agree it’s about engagement and not attack – I am lucky I have never had to go hungry (and I mean lucky because it’s all too easy to see how life changes in the blink of an eye) but those who have put in those positions of power need to take a step outside the circle..try looking from the outside in and see how their behaviour could be seen by the masses who do know hunger and who don’t feel that those in power are giving them value for money…..if I can see that then surely they (who are supposedly well educated) can see that too.

  10. After my initial reactions of annoyance & resignation at the behaviour of Cameron et al, my thoughts are we (you & me & more broadly the population at large) get the governance we deserve. Relatively few people vote. If more people exercised the right, obtained by the efforts of people who sometimes paid with their lives, then we would all be in a much stronger position to exert pressure democratically & make our politicians of all hues, act in the direction we want them too.
    The political party is a poor way of giving democratic control, but it’s so far the easiest way of doing things, if a little blunted in it’s approach. If we could devise a system whereby different policies could be voted upon, then that could really allow people to exercise change for the better. But that would destroy the powerful vested interests that exist today & that would never do!

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