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The food bank paradox

As many Britons go hungry, burgeoning food banks are answering the need. But are they also giving the government an excuse for tolerating poverty?

Nigel Webster can’t remember how many times he’s written “Food bank open” on a small black chalkboard on the doorstep of his community church. Every time it rains, which in his northern district of Nottingham is pretty often, the watery chalk cascades straight off, meaning that Webster or one of his volunteers needs to stop packaging emergency food parcels and re-chalk it. A few years back, a local graphic designer offered to create a large, professional placard so that people needing emergency food assistance could find their way more easily. But Webster refused. “We don’t want to be here next year,” he said. “We want folks to understand that while the need is urgent and necessary now, don’t lose sight that we’re only meant to be temporary.”

I met Webster, the…

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