This Supermarket Is Advertising Its Food As "Ideal" For Food Banks
And everyone's a bit confused and outraged about it.
What happened next can only be described as a textbook Twitterstorm.
Paris's tweet received over 1,600 retweets and hundreds of outraged comments.
Some of that outrage went straight to the source: politicians.
While some expressed their disgust using a wider sociopolitical scope.
Others, however, were a bit confused about the fuss.
Meanwhile, some clever types got photoshopping.
A breakaway vein of outrage directed itself at the relative quality of supermarkets' own-brand discount products.
Which led to accusations of snobbery.
Then, naturally, UKIP's Erewash branch got involved.
Twitterstormers then directed their rage at the @CooperativeFood handle.
The only thing is – those people had got the wrong Co-operative.
Which is fair enough – multiple organisations in the UK share the same Co-operative brand. Confusingly.
So now some poor social media manager at The Co-operative is spending their weekend doing this:
The correct Co-operative, (The Central England Co-operative), has a statement on its website explaining its in-store food bank programme.
Central England Co-operative supports food banks around its trading area as part of its Corporate Responsibility strategy. As a community retailer, we have permanent food banks situated in over 60 of our food stores, in response to requests from local food banks and our customers to support them.
Our members and customers can help to support families in real need by donating an item of food to a food bank. This could be an item brought from home or at their weekly shop at any store.
So far, Central England Co-operative's members and customers have donated over 10 tonnes of much needed food this year. In 2014, the Society also redistributed approximately 15 tonnes worth of food to FareShare.
We further aim to deepen partnerships with food banks and the local community by adding more value with initiatives such as healthy eating or reducing food waste workshops.
And according to the Central England Co-operative, this little word says "appeal" – referring to the in-store food collection programme run by the store, which donates to food banks in the area.
So the message here doesn't really seem to be: "Hey, buy our cheapest stuff and donate it to food banks so that you can feel good about yourselves while we make a slick profit and together we can dance on the grave of the welfare state."
Not really, anyway.
In any case, Paris shared his thoughts with us about the massive reaction his tweet has received:
It's been hard to keep up with the feedback from the tweet but I think the photo really struck a chord with an anger at how foodbanks have been normalised. My own reaction wasn't anger. It just made me deeply sad that food poverty is now so widespread that being asked to donate tinned food for people in our own communities is now a mundane part of life. That would have been unimaginable even a few years ago. There are presentational issues with how the sign is displayed. Putting it next to cheap own-brand food has clearly struck a nerve.
But I wouldn't criticise a supermarket for raising food for the hungry. I donate to the Trussell Trust every month and making sure that those who need it have food is vital work. But it's worrying that we're starting to accept poverty and then making it an act of virtue to donate. It's not an accident that people are hungry. It's caused by the vicious and deliberate assault on the welfare state and the failure to make sure that work pays a living wage. If people are angry then they should be angry at the coalition government for allowing this.
The Central England Co-operative has provided BuzzFeed News with a comment on the uproar, clarifying that it does collect foods in its stores, and that it chooses where to place its "Ideal for the food bank appeal" placards according to what food banks have said they most need:
Our foodbank policy has been developed in response to an increasing number of requests to support the good work these organisations do in local communities. In addition to having permanent collection points in over 60 of our food stores, we also hold quarterly awareness events when foodbanks are invited into stores to talk to local people about the important work they do, recruit volunteers and request donations from a shopping list of food items. This list is developed by the foodbanks themselves to best reflect the needs of the people they are helping and does not usually include fresh items. Our members and customers can help to support families in real need by donating an item of food to a food bank. This could be an item brought from home or at their weekly shop at any store.
Last weekend, in support of an awareness event running in a number of our stores, a temporary shelf edge notice was developed to help customers locate food products which the foodbank in that particular store wanted donated during the event. The location of these shelf edge notices varied from store to store and was based on requests from the foodbank itself. The Society did not have a policy of locating these notices next to value lines. We would also like to point out that the quality of our value products is extremely high which is why they prove so popular with many of our customers who buy them for their own use more often than as donations to foodbanks.
We apologise if members of the public have been offended by what was a genuine attempt to support the foodbanks in our local communities and help alleviate food poverty.
So far, Central England Co-operative's members and customers have donated over 10 tonnes of much needed food this year. In 2014, the Society also redistributed approximately 15 tonnes worth of food to FareShare. As part of our commitment to operating as a responsible business, we will continue our work with foodbanks in addition to the many other initiatives which our Society is involved with and which are making a real difference to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.