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Prosecutors drop case against men caught taking food from Iceland bins | UK news | theguardian.com

Prosecutors drop case against men caught taking food from Iceland bins | UK news | theguardian.com.

Paul May outside Iceland

Paul May, one of three men caught taking cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms and Mr Kipling cakes from bins outside Iceland. Photograph: Martin Godwin

Three men caught taking discarded food from bins outside an Iceland store will not now be prosecuted after an explosion of criticism over the decision to bring charges against them, including from the company’s chief executive.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it would drop its case despite having previously said there was “significant public interest” in prosecuting the men. They were caught last year taking tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and Mr Kipling cakes from the dustbins behind a branch of the high-street retailer.

Baljit Ubhey, the chief crown prosecutor for the CPS in London, said: “This case has been reviewed by a senior lawyer and it has been decided that a prosecution is not required in the public interest.”

The Guardian revealed on Tuesday that Paul May, Jason Chan and William James had been charged under the 1824 Vagrancy Act, after being discovered in “an enclosed area, namely Iceland, for an unlawful purpose, namely stealing food”.

On Wednesday, Malcolm Walker, the chief executive of Iceland,contacted the CPS to request that the case be dropped, stating that the company had not sought a prosecution.

The retailer took rapid steps to distance itself from the case, attempting to offset a damaging public relations storm as news of the prosecution triggered widespread criticism. Several online petitions were launched, calling on the CPS to reconsider its decision to prosecute.

Paul May, Jason Chan and William James, all residents of a squat in north London, were arrested on 25 October, just before midnight, after a member of the public called the police to report three men scaling a wall at the back of Iceland in Kentish Town. Police arrested the men as they left the area with a holdall and trolley containing food. The total value of the items taken from the bins allegedly amounted to £33.

May, 35, a freelance web designer, said he was relieved the case had been dropped. He said it was a ridiculous charge, and “crazy” to think that prosecution was in the public interest.

He said he had taken the food because he needed it to eat, and did not consider that he had done anything illegal or dishonest in removing food destined for landfill from a skip.

“Did we have dishonest intent when we jumped into the yard at Iceland to retrieve what was in the bins? No, we didn’t,” he said. “A dishonest action would be wandering into a store and filling your pockets with what is on the shelves. We didn’t do that.”

May said he was not ashamed of recovering binned food, to share, cook and eat with his housemates.

“It doesn’t feel like we are doing something criminal. We are taking food that they have thrown away so it can be eaten by people who appreciate it. I think it is more morally questionable that they are throwing away that much usable food than that people are diving in and recovering it. In some ways I am proud of what we do.”

Walker said his initial reaction to news of the prosecution had been “one of total bemusement”. Writing in the Guardian, he said: “Our store had not called the police, let alone asked for those concerned to be prosecuted. Waste food in our bins that cannot be sold is clearly of minimal value to us.”

He added: “We acted as soon as we could to ask the police and CPS to drop the case.”

The case has prompted new focus on the phenomenon of “skipping” – taking discarded supermarket waste to cook and eat – and reopened the debate over how much supermarket food is still discarded.

But although some supermarkets here are beginning to offer their unused stock to food banks, May says the quantity still found discarded in bins suggests there is much more that could be used constructively.

Explaining the decision to drop the case, Ubhey said: “In reconsidering this case, we have had particular regard to the seriousness of the alleged offence and the level of harm done. Both of these factors weigh against a prosecution. Additionally, further representations received today from Iceland Foods have affected our assessment of the public interest in prosecuting.”

“We hope this demonstrates our willingness to review decisions and take appropriate and swift action when necessary. The Crown Prosecution Service is committed to bringing the right charges to court when – and only when – it is proper to do so.”

The case was launched as attitudes towards excessive supermarket waste begin to harden. In the US, entrepreneurs are working on new models for recycling unsold produce.

May, who has regularly taken food from skips, argued that he has the right to take food which is being thrown away. “More and more people are using food banks than ever before but supermarkets are throwing away huge amounts of food, which will end up in landfill,” he said. “If supermarkets were giving as much as they could away, then their bins would be empty, or full of cardboard boxes and broken yoghurt pots – but they’re not. You’d be amazed at what you find.”

He and other residents at the squat regularly find large quantities of frozen chicken breasts. Last week they had quail. Most of the food May collects when he goes skipping has crossed the marked sell-by date, but is still edible.

The residents of the squat have a kitty where people contribute to basic necessities like teabags and milk, but the bulk of what residents eat comes from skips, May said.

May says he is squatting because he cannot afford to rent in London, and the alternative would be to move out of the city, making it hard to see his six-year-old son. Removing food from skips allows him to eat more healthily than he would if he was buying food on a low income, he claims. “If I relied on the little I have every day, I would eat very badly.”

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding | Society | The Guardian

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding | Society | The Guardian.

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding

Critics say Conservative anti-EU ideology being put ahead of needs of the poor after UK officials turn down subsidy
food banks

The economic downturn has seen use of food banks in Britain increase dramatically in recent months. Photograph: Mercury Press & Media Ltd

The government has been accused of putting “anti-European ideology” before the needs of the most deprived people in society after Britain rejected help from a European Union fund to help subsidise the costs offood banks.

David Cameron, who was heavily criticised recently after Michael Gove blamed the rise in food banks on financial mismanagement by families, faced pressure to embark on a U-turn to allow EU funds to be spent on feeding the poor.

The government came under fire after British officials in Brussels said that the UK did not want to use money from a new £2.5bn fund – European Aid to the Most Deprived – to be used to help with the costs of running food banks. The use of food banks has increased dramatically in recent months, prompting Sir John Major to warn that the poor face a stark choice between paying for heating or food.

But British officials rejected EU funding for food banks, which could have reached £22m for Britain, on the grounds that individual member states are best placed to take charge of such funding.

A document from the Department of Work and Pensions explaining Britain’s position, which has been leaked to the Guardian, says: “The UK government does not support the proposal for a regulation on the fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived. It believes that measures of this type are better and more efficiently delivered by individual member states through their own social programmes, and their regional and local authorities, who are best placed to identify and meet the needs of deprived people in their countries and communities. It therefore questions whether the commission’s proposal is justified in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.”

Richard Howitt, a Labour MEP who helped negotiate the new fund, accused the government of neglecting the needs of the poor. “It is very sad that our government is opposing this much-needed help for foodbanks on the basis that it is a national responsibility, when in reality it has no intention of providing the help itself. The only conclusion is that Conservative anti-European ideology is being put before the needs of the most destitute and deprived in our society.”

Howitt added that he hoped that a Westminster parliamentary debate on Wednesday would prompt a government U-turn. He said the debate “should be used to shame a government, which is taking food out of the mouths of the hungry, into a U-turn in time for Christmas”.

It is understood that in “trilogue” negotiations – between the European commission, the council of ministers and the European Parliament – British officials formed a blocking minority with three other EU member states to water down the fund which will run from 2014-2020. Under the original plans there would have been just one funding strand for the “distribution of material assistance” – sleeping bags and food. But Britain prompted the creation of a second funding strand known as “immaterial assistance” to cover counselling and budget maintenance but not food banks.

The position taken by UK officials means that Britain will draw down just €3.5m (£2.9m) from the fund compared with €443m for France which is around the same size as the UK. Britain is taking the same amount as Malta, the smallest EU member state with a population of 450,000.

The department for work and pensions said that Britain has not lost any money because the £22m would have come out of the UK’s EU structural fund pot. It said that ministers have not decided how to allocate the £2.9m earmarked for Britain from the fund, though this is expected to be spent on helping unemployed people find work.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We aren’t losing money – any funding the UK receives from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will be taken off our structural fund allocation. Instead we will use our structural funds to support local initiatives to train and support disadvantaged people into work. We have not yet decided how the €3.5m euro pot (£2.9m) will be spent – food aid is just one of the options for spending the money.”

Chris Mould, the executive chairman of Britain’s largest network of food banks, the Trussell Trust, told the Guardian: “We would welcome an opportunity to have discussions with DWP about how we could use that €3.5m to good effect. If the EU made a decision in the European Parliament that this money should be used for the assistance of people in severe need – and it has got a food aid tag on it – then we hope they will talk to us.”

On the signs that the government would like to spend the money in helping people into work, rather than on food aid, Mould said: “It is the decision of government at all times what its priorities are for the money it has available. But it does need to spend money in several places not in one place. The Trussell Trust has provided through its network of food banks emergency assistance for over 500,000 people since 2013 who are in financial crisis, who are going hungry who have been referred by more than 23,000 different professionals holding vouchers.

“If people don’t get help when they are in financial crisis they lose their home, their families break down, they suffer anxiety and depression. All these things have a significant financial cost to the state. It is very important that the government looks beyond the narrow single issue argument of spending all the money into employment. Of course that is important but they are spending massive of money on that which is good. But this EU money is extra and originally intended to be for food assistance.”

Food Bank Use Near Record Level In Ontario, Report Says

Food Bank Use Near Record Level In Ontario, Report Says.

A near-record number of Ontarians are using food banks, according to a new report.

The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) says that 375,789 people made use of a food bank in the province this March – more than one-third of whom were children.

That’s more than nine-tenths of the number that used food banks in the previous March, when a record high of 412,998 was recorded.

Nearly half of the families (46.1 per cent) making use of Ontario food banks have children at home. A similar proportion of those relying on food banks (43.6 per cent) are single people, while the remainder of families using food banks (10.3 per cent) are couples without children.

Food banks in the province also served more than 1.2 million meals to Ontarians during the month of March, which is part of an ongoing trend in which food banks have expanded the services they offer to meet the needs of clients.

“As a province with so much, there is no reason that any child should have to go to bed hungry,” Bill Laidlaw, the OAFB executive director, said in a statement accompanying the release of the 2013 Hunger Report.

“To meet these growing needs, food banks are now having to do so much more than provide emergency support. They are becoming hubs for social innovation, health and child care support, learning and training opportunities, and community development that stretch far beyond the traditional idea of a food bank.”

 

800,000 Canadians still relying on food banks – Canada – CBC News

800,000 Canadians still relying on food banks – Canada – CBC News. (source)

The annual study by Food Banks Canada shows that more than 833,000 people relied on food handouts during one snapshot month earlier this year, The annual study by Food Banks Canada shows that more than 833,000 people relied on food handouts during one snapshot month earlier this year, (Canadian Press)

The number of Canadians using food banks has fallen off slightly but still remains near record highs almost four years after the end of the economic recession.

The annual study by Food Banks Canada shows that more than 833,000 people relied on food handouts during one snapshot month earlier this year, compared with 872,379 the previous March. More than a third of them were children.

“Underlying this small drop is a concern of enormous proportions: food bank use remains higher than it was before the
recession began,” the report states.

“During a time of apparent economic recovery, far too many Canadians still struggle to put food on the table.”

Abundance of low-income jobs

Low-income jobs are the culprit, the report found, and there’s an abundance of them thanks to a Canada-wide loss of manufacturing jobs over the past three decades.

The annual HungerCount study provides one of the most up-to-date national indicators of poverty. The latest Statistics Canada numbers show that 8.8 per cent of people were living below the low-income cutoff in 2011.

Who is going hungry in 2013? More than half of those turning to food banks are families with children, the report concludes.

Twelve per cent of households asking for help were currently employed, while another five per cent were recently employed.

Eleven per cent of those using food banks self-identify as First Nations, Metis or Inuit, and another 11 per cent are new immigrants to Canada.

“Both of these groups continue to face unacceptable levels of poverty, and are forced to turn to food banks as a result,” the study found.

Food Banks Canada called on governments to invest in affordable housing, better income supports and to “increase social investment in northern Canada to address the stunning levels of food insecurity in northern regions.”

“We lose billions of dollars each year trying to address the health and social consequences of poverty after it takes its toll, rather than preventing it in the first place,” the study found.

Katharine Schmidt, the organization’s executive director, said the while federal and provincial governments are attempting to do more to combat hunger, the numbers remain disturbingly high.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Schmidt said in an interview.

“One child going to bed hungry is one child too many, and we have 300,000 of them in this country.”

She added that while the country’s thousands of food banks are “really doing their best,” they do not represent a long-term solution because they cannot address the root causes of hunger.

“We believe that government does care, that they do see that they have a role to play,” she said. “The challenge is actually implementing a change in policy.”

 

 

Huge rise in use of food banks since welfare changes, says aid body | Society | The Guardian

Huge rise in use of food banks since welfare changes, says aid body | Society | The Guardian.

 

Number of people turning to food banks triples in a year | Society | The Guardian

Number of people turning to food banks triples in a year | Society | The Guardian.

 

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