Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Response to Jamie Oliver: Self Appointed Govt Poverty Porn Tsar

Many people living on the austerity frontline were today waking up, not only to another day of wondering what they can put on their table to feed their family, but to some amazing "observations" made by Oliver about how the poor live their lives and the fact (in his view) there is no poverty in the UK.

I could almost hear the coalition cheering.  Jamie Oliver is worth an estimated £150 million. He flits from country to country advising people to live their lives on his recipes for his TV shows and books. A quick "pucker" grin at the locals and just as Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects "and like that he was gone..."

Today he has appointed himself the Governments new Poverty Porn Tsar. He bemoans poor families by stereo-typing them as "'You might remember that scene in Ministry Of Food, with the mum and the kid eating chips and cheese out of Styrofoam containers, and behind them is a massive TV. It just didn’t weigh up.' Apparently the multi millionaire also has his own stats on poor families "The fascinating thing for me is that seven times out of 10, the poorest families in this country choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families. The ready meals, the convenience foods.'

And there we have it in a nutshell. A millionaire flitting into the lives of the poor and having a huge opinion, while he then sits pretty raking in the deals from TV and books and his restaurant. Mr Oliver, like the Government seems to be obsessed with "massive TV's". Woe betide the worker who has to step into Curries to buy a new TV then. He is faced with a choice of flat screen or plasma TVs and most over 30 inches in diameter. If he then loses his job he is "saddled" with his large TV. Does Mr Oliver think he should then return it to the shop? Of course not! I know the above sounds ridiculous but no more ridiculous than Oliver's stereo-typical slant on poor people. Hence why he comes across as a Poverty Porn Tsar.

He goes on to say poor people should shop at local markets whereby "you can just grab 10 mange tout for dinner and don't waste a thing". Hmmm there are 2 points to be made here. With the arrival of huge supermarkets many areas do not have a local market for starters. In my case I am fortunate to have one, but couldn't see me grabbing 10 mange tout and feeding a family of 2 adults and 4 strapping lads aged 14-24!

People in Jamie Oliver's position could do so much good if they actually a) thought about it thoroughly and b) understood the root causes of poverty. In my article on food banks I raised the problem that when our local food bank volunteers turn up with a food parcel at people's doorsteps, in some cases people do not have a proper cooker or microwave even. If they do have a cooker, many have come from a deprived background and may not have had the family life where mum or dad passed down cookery lessons. While Jamie Oliver as a professional chef may stand in his multi thousand pound kitchen showing his kids how to cook, there are thousands of young adults who did not have the privilege of having this kind of loving family environment. Many young people coming out of care, have not been shown cookery skills either. From my own viewpoint with a few sons having done GCSE Home Economics in school, too much time is wasted on the theory of cooking and not enough time on cooking practical family meals on a budget. Indeed I have said schools could benefit from mums and dads coming in to show young teenagers how to cook tasty meals without the big budget costs. Many of Mr Oliver's own recipes have quite fancy ingredients that cost a fair bit: he was criticised for his £26 hardback 30 minute recipe book for containing expensive ingredients that  on average cost £20 per meal  for 4 people and took an hour to cook not 30 minutes!

I would say to Mr Oliver: It is offensive to criticise poor families in these times of austerity when you  have £150 million in the bank. It is also extremely patronising to tell poor families where they should be buying food in your millionaires opinion. Forget the local market, many people are relying on food banks to feed their families and food that is filling but may not be as nutritional as they would wish. When you are staring down the barrel of poverty, having had a benefit sanctioned, lost your job, become ill or disabled, wondering whether to pay the Bedroom Tax, heat or eat: only then can you offer an opinion on feeding a family on a budget.

Chips n Cheese or 10 Mange Tout..  I know what I would prefer.