Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

The reality of food banks


Lloyd Evans has narrated this article for you to listen to.

The old man next door asked me to collect his parcel from the food bank. ‘Sure,’ I said. I joined a queue of 20 starvelings outside a chapel in the East End. Most were migrants carrying rucksacks or bags for life, and there were a few Cockney mums with fidgety nippers in tow. Everyone in the queue had a mobile phone – which is normal these days – and most were dressed for the Olympic Games in Adidas sprint shoes, Nike jogging pants and Reebok breathable weightlifting shirts. I felt distinctly under-dressed in my Oxfam castoffs. Despite their keep-fit attire, many of the applicants seemed to be on the corpulent side, and one or two had stepped proudly out of the closet and were openly obese. Good for them.

A brightly lit Anglican chapel had been systematically stripped of any reference to Christ

After waiting in a gale for 25 minutes, I was ushered into a brightly lit Anglican chapel which had been systematically stripped of any reference to Christ, the cross, the commandments and so on. Nailed to the walls were abstract posters bearing mottos for zombies: ‘We Are All One’ and ‘My Spirit Shall Bring You Life’.

 I filled in a form and took a seat opposite an elderly adjudicator whose wrinkled face was hidden by a surgical mask. ‘Is English your first language?’ she asked. I told her that I was collecting food for an elderly neighbour and she queried the reason I’d given on the form. I wrote ‘debt’ as it sounded better than ‘grinding poverty’ or ‘starvation’. She said: ‘Let’s put “rent arrears” as it’s more sympatico.’ ‘OK,’ I said, ‘but why?’ She misheard me. ‘Sympatico,’ she explained. ‘It’s Italian.’

She showed me the options on a laminated sheet with the words and symbols printed adjacently, as pub signs are, to help the illiterate.

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