The eminent Swiss psychologist Carl Jung said that in most patients over forty, the majority of problems were caused by worries about the past and fear about the future. Well, although I would hate to admit it, I am over forty. Not much obviously, just a little, so I think I should take note of Mr Jung’s warning.
The other day I found myself in the strange place of realising that I was giving myself some good advice in public. I was chatting to a friend about some incident and I found myself saying “I may have regrets about things that happened in the past, but I sure as hell don’t have to live there”. And then it hit me. Talking about something completely unconnected, I was giving myself some words of advice. As my Gran would have said, ‘bugger that for a game of soldiers’.
So this year has been about endings, new beginnings and taking stock. I have always been driven by seeing a social problem, a challenge perhaps, and wrestling a solution out of it. Looking at that ‘problem’ from all sorts of different angles and trying to work out if there is a way to achieve a better outcome. I have always been inspired, and a little challenged, by the saying attributed to Albert Einstein that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. I see myself as an innovator, as someone who looks at a challenge, mulls it over and tries to come up with a different way of seeing it and therefore a different solution.
During this year I have been amazed by the weekly barrage of stories in the press about the rise of food poverty in Britain and the increasing use of food banks. We are led to believe that this rise is rather like an iceberg and at the moment we have only seen the tip. Each week at least three new food banks have opened and nearly 400,000 people have had to resort to using them. The response to this from the government and media has been a combination of sensationalism and silence.
At the same time we also know that the UK food industry throws away (a conservative) 500,000 tonnes of food before it even gets to the shelves in the shops. People throw their arms up in the air and blame the super markets but I am not so convinced. I lead a busy life and sometimes I need to shop at strange hours. When I get to the supermarket I want to be able to have a full range of apples on the shelves or bread at the bakery section, even if I turn up at 2 am. If the shelves are half empty I will go to another supermarket which can offer me better choice, the choice I think I deserve. So I wonder if it is the supermarkets fault for knowing what I am like, my desire for choice and my desire to shop and strange times and have everything there all the time, or is it mine? Either way it is where we are in Britain in 2013. I, and lots of others, have grown used to shopping in a particular way, the shops have responded and the system has produced over-stock. Enough, as it seems, to mean there is about a tonne of food left for every person who goes to a foodbank.
You’ve got to wonder though, how have we got ourselves into a place where we have oversupply on one hand, and food poverty on the other. There is great work being done by food redistribution charities and foodbanks to try and plug the gap, but the scale of the problem means we have to do more, and fast. So that’s what I’m looking to at now. I’ve spend the last six months working alongside experts in commercial food redistribution to bring to the fore a new project that will provide a sustainable, long-term solution, with lasting social impact. More to follow.