Think North

Austerity, women & health inequalities


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Reality Bites

Earlier on I chatted to a young woman sat outside Pret in Newcastle. 24 weeks pregnant, the only housing the council can provide is temporary hostel accommodation which she said is full of drug users. I don’t know where we went wrong in the calculation of what constitutes being a wealthy nation but I don’t think leaving vulnerable women homeless is a part of this. We should have a long hard look at ourselves and who our states really benefit. It makes me beyond sad and angry.

 I posted the above on Facebook earlier. Here name is Sarah, and I bought her a sandwich, a coffee and a chocolate bar and then talked to hear with tears in my eyes. I felt like a total phoney. What right did I have,  with my stupid smartphone resting casually in my hand and all the great things in my life, to ask her how she was feeling?

How could I even look her in the eye, tell her how sorry I was, that I’m so sorry it worked out this way and that I hope things end up ok for her and that her baby is ok? What kind of a place do we live in where Sarah has to sit on the cold concrete in one of the wealthiest countries in the world when all around her people talk on their iPhones, commit tax evasion, drink £5 coffees and say that poverty doesn’t really exist here, not in the same way that it does in…somewhere else.

On my way home I went into Waitrose, as I like to do with I am in Newcastle. I browsed for a long time looking for deals and I purchased some white vinegar to clean the plug, a bag of coffee and some hypoallergenic non-scented laundry detergent. Why do I get to make these choices?

What could I say to a woman who is in so many ways similar to me, but has none of the really astounding opportunities that I do, at least not right now when it matters, for her and her baby?  I didn’t know what to say, so I asked her about herself, we talked some shit about the police, and then I said goodbye. There is nothing I could say to her, because we live in a society that doesn’t care about her, will maybe take her child into care, and convince her that she’s a bad mother for smoking because it’s harmful for the baby’s health.

There was nothing I could say. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be really angry about it.

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NE Consultation on Right to Food: 17th November 2015 Durham.

Myself and some of the women from an organisation in Stockton I do fieldwork with attended an event on the right to food on Tuesday 17th November.

This event was held as part of 4 events around UK, working towards building a ‘food justice’ movement.

Inspired by the UN convention on social, economic and cultural rights which says that the government has a legal obligation to provide food. UK government signed up to this agreement.

There are 2 million malnourished people in the UK, further 3 million at risk.

Does increase in use of Trussell Trust food banks this year indicate impacts of welfare reform increasing need for food bank use? As the ‘crisis period’ lasts even longer, a 3 day food parcel is no longer enough.

‘Household food poverty’ is an important definition used in the Fabian report on food poverty, as it is more than simply filling your belly today, but hints at long-term insecurities and uncertainties, a risk which doesn’t quite go away.

Fabian Commission on food and poverty:http://foodandpoverty.org.uk/

Open access resource to transforming food networks: http://www.foodsystemsacademy.org.uk/

Beyond the foodbank, report on London boroughs:http://www.sustainweb.org…/london_food_poverty_profile_20…/

Where does the ‘right to food’ and ‘right to income’ overlap in terms of austerity and welfare reform?

Thoughts from the day will go towards compiling a campaign around a food justice network in the UK.

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