Feeding Love – Gill Watson

Gill Watson
Some of my many thank you gifts

When I’m shopping for items to make up food parcels, I always take a photo of what’s on the conveyor belt before I pack it. It’s a lazy way of keeping track of what I’m doing and how much I’ve spent. Invariably the cashier asks why I’m taking a picture and this always leads to a conversation about austerity and the need for food banks.

The last time I was snapping while shopping, the cashier said: “I hope they appreciate it, the people you’re buying all this food for.” And I could tell by her tone that what she really meant was “I
hope they deserve it, the people you’re buying all this food for.”

I was in a hurry to deliver the food to a young mum with grade four brain cancer, who has been waiting seven months to find out if she’s entitled to any benefits. She’d been working until the tumour began to affect her vision and the onset of seizures meant it was too risky for her to be in the workplace. She also had to give up driving.

If I hadn’t been in such a rush I would have gladly told the cashier this story and given her many more examples of people who could be happily working in a supermarket one day and the next are knocked sideways into poverty because they were silly enough to get ill.

But the cashier’s question about people being appreciative made me think about all the ways that people have thanked me over the years. I never expect or want anything more than a thank-you and sometimes even a thankyou is too much.

I remember getting a pile of handmade cards and pictures from the children at a school nurture group a couple of years ago, thanking me for the cereals and biscuits. Those cards broke my heart because a bowl of cereal or a custard cream is so basic that it seemed wrong that a child should feel compelled to write a letter as if they were thanking someone for a birthday gift.

I’ve had all kinds of thank-yous, and Zoe the14-year-old daughter remarked last week that I seem to be bringing home more food than I’m delivering nowadays. It’s true, I’ve had Kenyan goat and salt cod stew, plantain fries, corn bread, custard tarts, cinnamon bread and morello cherry jam to name just a few.

But as well as all this delicious homemade food I’ve also received so many offers of cleaning my house, shampooing my carpets and doing my ironing that it’s made me wonder if I should stop
posting pictures of my home on Facebook as people are obviously appalled by the mess I live in.

Then last month I received the ultimate thank you when I was asked to be present at the birth of baby Gabriel. I call him my Lidl baby because in the two months leading up to his birth his mum and dad basically survived on the food I could give them from the Lidl bins as well as some donations of food at Ramadan from my Muslim friends. Baby Gabriel’s parents survived those months
without a penny in benefits but were determined to turn their lives around. They managed to get a small bank loan and when Gabriel was two days old they opened a Portuguese café on Burnley
market.

So in answer to the cashier’s first question “Do people appreciate the food?” I can answer with a resounding “Yes” but I can also answer the question she really wanted to ask, “Do they deserve the food?”

It’s not just about giving people food to eat when they can’t afford to feed themselves; it’s about giving people a little bit of hope and letting them know that you give a damn. Gabriel’s parents were given hope and are now contributing to Britain’s economy by paying taxes as well as being the first people to serve delicious Portuguese food in the area.

But that’s not all. Gabriel’s parents are also helping others who are struggling by passing on any leftover food. Last week this meant that I was able to take a fish dinner to feed the family of the lady
with brain cancer.

I understand how it’s difficult for people to believe there is anyone genuinely starving in this rich country of ours, but there’s enough evidence out there if you don’t choose to ignore it. No mother finds it easy to beg for food because her children are starving just as it’s not easy to put your children on a boat to escape a war-torn country when you know how low the chances of survival are. And we, the more fortunate shouldn’t need to see the bodies before we care.

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