A Riot on my Doorstep…..

Or was it more of a kerfuffle ?

Or was it an insight to the state of the UK right now. 

I live in the New Forest, not a rich part, but a safe place, with little trouble.  There is an assumption that there is little poverty in this part of the world, and compared to many places there isn’t. But that is changing, and fast. 

Through my non-profit I run  – New Forest Aquaponics CIC – we work alongside a charity and a community group to help to save food waste from supermarkets.  All of us aim to help those who need some extra food to help them through the week (first and foremost), and then to make sure none of the food gets wasted.  

I have a big blue box on my drive. It is an old freezer box that was taken out of a cruise liner at some point.  It works like a giant cool box and works really well as a place for local people to come and help themselves. A little bit like a community fridge, but on my drive. 

What we have found is that over time more and more people are joining the WhatsApp group we use to notify everyone when foods are added to the box. This is great, but is very sad as so many of the people who join it are doing so not to save food waste from the bin, but because they really need some help to make it through to the next payday. 

Last week we had a fairly new volunteer go and pick up the food; she then brought it to our box and in an attempt to give us a night off, didn’t let us know the box was now full.  All of this is my fault for not making sure she knew to let us know the box was full. 

It had some really lovely foods that day, mince and beef burgers, as well as the normal breads and pastries, plus a few vegetables and fruit.  Pictures were taken and shared on WhatsApp, as well as with another food group not too far away. 

We get very very little meat in the collections: it is always regarded as a real treat. I normally freeze any meat, so it can go to those who really need it, either by me (as I see people at the box), or via one of the other groups we work with running  pop up’s, or given out in  a food parcel. 

But because the meat had been put in the box and around 250 people saw the pictures, it became a bit of a race to the box!  And of course it got a little heated, voices raised and accusations of greed flew about.  Not what you would expect on a quiet New Forest road. It took less than 30 minutes for the whole box to empty, disappointing many people. 

All this week I have been answering questions on what happened, and listening to regular users of the box.  

I would like to give my take on why this all happened.   

I do not believe that we are naturally greedy, but I do believe we always are looking for some form of security. Food security is important for us all, and we have a drive to make sure those we love are fed.  For so many the current financial crisis in the UK is hitting really hard. With fuel, electricity and food prices rising, and wages staying the same, fear of how to manage is  taking hold.  Let’s face it, if your budget stays the same, how do you pay all the bills now they have gone up?

About 5 years ago my family hit a point of no money, and to be honest, nothing has improved much financially since then.  But what has changed is our ability to cope with no money, and to learn that however hard it is, we do live in a rich nation, and even with a system that is totally broken, it is 100% better than most countries around the world.  

Through my work in plastic transition, I regularly talk to people from all over the world, including Uganda. They tell me tales of fights over food, and locals who have starved to death. Fighting over food should never, ever happen here in the UK. 

When we are in a state of fear, caused by not knowing how we are going to provide for our loved ones, it can bring out what looks like greed. It is almost impossible to put others first when your mind is plagued with worry over how to cope. I do not blame anyone for trying their best to provide for their family, I have been in that situation, and at times still find myself there. 

Thinking of others has been lost in the stress of modern life; strong communities are too rare these days. But I do believe we can turn this around, by remembering to think of others, and help create an abundance of community. 

My little part in this is The Waterside Food Project, and helping make sure everyone can access at least something to help them get through each day.  What is your part in creating community abundance?

And to the people who use my box – no one needs to be hungry – we will keep doing what we are doing for as long as we can. Please always think of others and only take what you will use, and never fear asking for help if you are in real need.  

I love you all and the joy it brings me to hear your stories of how you are helping others who can’t get to the box. Every time you do this you are creating community abundance.

A full box – it is not this full very often.