With millions of people in the UK, possibly billions around the world, living hungry, we asked our bloggers if making food free would be a good idea. Here’s what they said

Whose blog do you want to read first: Jaisha, Tabitha, Isabella, Ellie, Zobia, Emilia

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Jaisha

For most people (especially the bored ones), food is always on the mind: What will I get for dinner? Are there any leftovers in the fridge? Which snack should I eat? However, some peoples’ thoughts are slightly different: Will I get dinner? How much food can I afford? How can I get my next meal? With these thoughts in mind, you probably agree. Everyone should be allowed to eat free.

In a perfect world, food would be free. The world would be a restaurant and your house a permanently reserved table for you and your loved ones. However, our world is far from perfect and in this imperfect world, 8.4 million people in the UK and over 690 million people in the world struggle to afford basic foods. So, the question is: Why is food (a human necessity) not free? Well, to answer that question, you need to understand how a meal makes it to your table.

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Let’s imagine you have an unquenchable desire to eat fish and chips hence decide to buy frozen chips and fish from the local Tesco. You proceed to buy a packet of 4 breaded fish fillets for a mere £2.40. Tesco then collects these £2.40 for a week/month and use it to buy more packs of breaded fish from the manufacturing company, who in turn use the money to pay the fisherman for the fish in the first place, who use the money to invest in bigger nets/bait or boats. However, if all food became free, you would never pay Tesco for the fish, Tesco would never have enough money to buy more packs so, won’t pay the manufacturers who won’t pay the fishermen. Still, you could argue that all food is free; the manufacturers and Tesco and other companies don’t need to pay the fishermen in the first place. Nonetheless, if the fisherman isn’t paid, how will he afford his boat? His net? His bait? How will he capture the fish that you crave? Simple. He won’t. This leads to the conclusion: food cannot be made free.

For the few privileged it is easy to ignore the price of food, for many, it is a visible but manageable burden yet, for millions of people, it is a death sentence. In countries such as: Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, Palestine and Yemen, famine has been declared a massive issue. Due to droughts and poor harvests, food in these regions is scarce, hence prices have skyrocketed. Only a few rich people can afford enough food whilst the poor starve. In situations like this, it would not only be obvious to distribute and ration food among all citizens but to make it free so everyone can strive to create a better harvest for the coming years.

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Furthermore (as stated above) more than 8.4 million people around the UK are snatched of a basic meal every day whilst 6.6 million tonnes of food is being wasted (70% of which could have been eaten or saved for a later date). If so much food is being wasted, when people have to pay for their meals, imagine how much more would be wasted if the food was to be free. This increase wastage of food would add a strain on farmers, fishermen, etc to produce more than they have the capacity for.

In conclusion, although in a perfect world food would have been free, it is an impossible solution to modern-day hunger problems. The most impactful way of helping the wider community would be to save food (not waste it) and donate to the less fortunate.

Jaisha, 15, Ascot

Whose blog do you want to read next: Tabitha, Isabella, Ellie, Zobia, Emilia

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Tabitha

Though providing everyone with free food would seem like a utopian solution to poverty (as evident from the recent problems with free school meals during lockdown), it is not a simple fix. If you are not aware of the story, many people, who were receiving free school meals packages while home-schooling, were extremely disappointed with the substandard food they received. They claimed that the cost of the food did not add up to the government’s supposed budget, that there was not enough food to feed each child and that the quality and nutritional value of the items were questionable. This example demonstrates the main problem with the government providing things for free. An independent company’s goal is chiefly to make a profit, yes, but it is also in their interests not to compromise too much on the quality of the product to keep customers satisfied and wanting to return. However, with free products, the relationship between the provider and the customer is pretty much non-existent. Customers are drawn in purely by the price tag, sales are not motivated by good service or positive reviews, but by cheapness alone, so the company has no incentive to maintain quality.

Therefore, providing free food is a complex proposition as corruption, capitalism and hunger for profit distract from the real purpose. There is also the fact that most of the cheapest foods on offer are also the least nutritious, leading to poorer health in lower-income families. There are also many questions to answer such as: should only people under a particular household income be eligible for free food? Should we limit how much food each person can take? How will we pay the farmers to produce the food?

If I were in the position of deciding this, I would propose that for a trial period, some types of food should be free, as different types cost different amounts to make. For example, start with making fresh fruit and vegetables free, so everyone can get a balanced, healthy diet when they otherwise could not afford it. Wait a while, see what issues crop up, then evaluate whether it is wise to go back to our old system, stay like this, or move on and continue to make more things free. However, I think that especially unhealthy luxuries like snacks, desserts and junk food should always have a price on them. Obesity is still a massive problem in this country, and I think making healthy food more accessible to people of all backgrounds is the key to solving it. As well as health, quality would surely be an issue if this were to happen, so it would have to be strictly controlled by the government to prevent instances, like last year, from happening again.

Tabitha, 15, Leicester

Whose blog do you want to read next: Jaisha, Isabella, Ellie, Zobia, Emilia

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Isabella

This is a statement in itself which can easily split a nation however, when you look at core human principles, I personally don’t think it should be a hard decision. Times are strange right now, actually not strange, it’s distressing. Distressing to such a large degree that many people are severely struggling. As a community we need to want them to be helped.

I fully appreciate the financial difficulties that can be faced by governments etc, and yet in reality surely, there are certain issues which are far more important and urgent than ensuring new tarmac is placed. Issues such as there being no doubt that the entire nation is fed! There are still many people in the country who are able to get access to food and so they should continue doing. I do understand how it may not be doable to feed the whole of the UK from the government’s finances, but it is vital that those who need assistance receive it. There should not be any hesitation or uncertainty.

If those, who can, continue to buy from stores, they should do so and perhaps a form of system can be figured out where a percentage of the price paid can go towards an organisation which funds free meals. We need to all to work together and acknowledge what is doable by each family and individual, as every single citizen is living a different story in a different situation.

Olio, is a platform where you can find free food. Food that is going to be discarded from a restaurant, as the day draws to an end, or when too big a batch was made in a bakery. You simply choose what you want, arrange a pick up time and date and voila! a new free meal on your table. This kind of technology and organisation is exactly what we need; perhaps even venturing to decide whether any edible and enjoyable food, left in the kitchens or restaurants and any food going past its sales by date in the reduced section should be mandatorily donated to organizations and food banks. If they are continued to be thrown away or kept on the shelves at a low price, those who really need it may never have access to it due to not knowing where to look. At the very least there should be some level of indication that, for example, there may be a whole aisle of reduced items which are far more affordable. Like I said before, we need to work together in order to ensure the safety of the nation.

Whether everyone should receive free food or not can be debated but those who cannot access fundamental food as a human right, deserve help and should never be cast aside or swept under the rug. It is humankind’s duty to ensure that everyone is fed and hydrated. We need to do what we can to help and there is no doubt about it.

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/food-drink-news/how-free-food-drink-restaurants-13848804

Isabella, 16, London

Whose blog do you want to read next: Jaisha, Tabitha, Ellie, Zobia, Emilia

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Ellie

Often when we are asked to picture an idyllic world, we picture one where food, water, healthcare, and education are free for all. But why can’t this be anything more than a fantasy? Why are we refusing to feed our people, despite having the resources to? It’s time that people in power really take the time to organise their priorities and realise that our right to survival is more important than their lust for money.

Data shows that 14% of adults living with children reported experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity in the last 6 months, with four million people including 2.3 million children living in these households. These statistics are limited to the UK only. We are fortunate enough to be an advanced country, but can you imagine the number of children worldwide who are being forced to skip meals each day? Lack of food security not only forces hunger upon the families around the world but brings with it a huge mental stress which often manifests itself in the form of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. The right to food is not just a question of allowing people to survive but protecting the mental health of those most vulnerable in these types of situations, including desperate families and children at risk. 

So, what can we do to help those who are struggling? Those that could happen to be our neighbours, our friends, our classmates. Currently in the UK 20 million slices of bread are thrown away every day, and 2 million tonnes of fresh produce is wasted each year. We have perfectly edible food on hand that would otherwise be thrown away, and we have people who greet their bed each night with an empty stomach. For most of us the solution appears obvious, so obvious that it’s frustrating we haven’t yet put the idea into practice. While there are some companies with the heart to donate the food not sold to food banks, there are many more that feel it is much less complicated to toss their products, which could’ve been a family’s week of meals, into the trash. 

When we can encourage large companies that donating food is the best way to go about unsold products, put easy, affordable measures in place to give them no excuse not to take part, we will see a rise in free food available to the vulnerable. Once this is established, it will become much easier to gradually encourage the right to free food for each of us. 

https://foodfoundation.org.uk/new-food-foundation-data-sept-2020/
https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/toast

Ellie, 16, Leicester

Whose blog do you want to read next: Jaisha, Tabitha, Isabella, Zobia, Emilia

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Zobia

When I see this question I see, ‘Should a basic necessity for survival cost or be freely available?’ If you have seen Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs then you would know that food is the most basic need for our survival and I do not believe that it should be kept from anyone especially, young people, who are still growing. Not having these things can affect, not only the persons physical health but also mental health.

11% of the world’s population are undernourished. This means they have a caloric intake below minimum energy requirement. 820 million people globally are undernourished.

How would you feel if your child or your younger sibling was starving? Going to bed hungry and waking up late at night because of hunger pains. Would you still choose to let these young people starve or would you make food free for everyone so that they have the access to what they are entitled to?

Zobia, 17, Portsmouth

Whose blog do you want to read next: Jaisha, Tabitha, Isabella, Ellie, Emilia

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Emilia

In our society, nothing is ever free. Not even our healthcare, the NHS, which is paid for by taxpayers and thus we pay indirectly for this service. Nothing is free because someone must offer labour, equipment and capital towards providing you with a service. Food is no exception. A farmer must sow crops, maintain them and then harvest them. The question is, should any sector of industry’s employees be devoid of pay, to allow people to learn, drive and eat, or should people be able to have access to free food?

On the one hand, we have the ability on planet Earth to feed everyone to a minimum standard, meaning that no one should go hungry and no one should become malnourished. Even with this fact, money causes this to not be feasible and so, deprives people from the right to eat. The capacity of our country to be able to feed everyone, is a probable reason to validate the idea to feed everyone, without cost, however we would have to change our society, and work together as a planet rather than countries which is not viable.

Secondly, many systems around the world are negligent to those of lower classes, not allowing them to grow out of the poverty cycle. Both discriminatory of race and the ingrained lifecycle of those in poverty does not allow many people to find outlets to better life, resulting in less access to good food resources. The neglection by the ingrained system of a country, makes it necessary to provide free help. Many born (and working) in higher classes could argue that lower classes must earn the food, like they do, however a broken system has birthed people into poverty and they must get help to fix this.

Lastly, food is a basic necessity of life and mortality must assume that quality of life must outweigh the cost of providing this necessity.

On the other hand, our societal structure cannot support massive cost of production of food for the masses without means of pay for its service, meaning that it could never be free. Subsistence farming, which is farming to provide enough for ones self, theoretically could provide a balance of labour for output which makes the food free, however not everyone would be able to provide for oneself meaning this would be unwise.

Secondly, we need to discuss whether this access to food should be equitable or equal. My meaning being should it allow others with more opportunities to be of similar amount of food as people that are better off or should everyone have equal access to free food. We must ask this question as equity would allow everyone to have equal amount of food with some having more help and less cost, which would cause the problem of some getting it free and others having to pay, or should everyone get free food allowing no one to be disadvantaged.

It is in my opinion that everyone should have access to food, as it is a necessity for life. How they acquire this food should be dependent on lifestyle and the amount must be able to keep the body healthy. If food must be provided for someone it must be healthy and not harming for the body. So, it is in my belief that food should be free equitably.

Emilia, 15, Leicester

Whose blog do you want to read next: Jaisha, Tabitha, Isabella, Ellie, Zobia

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All images come from Unsplash

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