Below the lovely headline proclaiming that staff are taking food out of bins due to low pay, The Guardian decided to introduce a piece with this paragraph:
"Cleaning staff at Wimbledon claim they were forced to take food from bins because they were given insufficient money... to buy lunch and dinner while working."Now an important caveat here: Yes, an hourly pay rate of £8 is too low in an area as disgustingly expensive as London. I have no qualms about agreeing there. Every employer should pay a proper wage or hang their heads in shame.
But, buy lunch? BUY? That paragraph I quoted makes it look like buying your lunch at work is normal, nae, expected, and something a worker is entitled to. That if you cannot buy your lunch during work then you are automatically deprived.
I'm sorry... but as a card-carrying member of that very same club right now (working as a cleaner, on a zero hours contract, below the living wage foundation pay rate) there is NO SUCH THING as an entitlement to a bought lunch every day. I don't care how long your shift is - bring two sandwiches from home if you have to. A lemon curd sandwich costs 4p. A jam sandwich costs 5p. An apple costs 15p. A banana about the same. Heck, go all-out and bring a few custard creams, some carrots, a few sticks of celery, a bottle of juice squash, a flask of lovely hot coffee with milk and sugar, a slice of home made cake. Guess what, you can still bring all of that for less than a pound. Maybe you're a snob and like something warm, like pot noodles. Well throw that in your other flask, they're 21p per pack at my local supermarket (without the "pot") and we can be generous and pretend that a cup of boiled water from your kettle at home costs another 1p. If you spend another few minutes, you can add a handful of frozen veggies or an egg.
Or bring your dinner leftovers. They're even nice when they're cold. Add another pinch of spices for some kick.
Nobody is saying that a cleaner's wages aren't too low. They are - and in a place full of a lot of cleaners, like Wimbledon, you can bet they all work much harder than I do. And yes, people are resorting to food banks in numbers higher than ever before. But that's a whole separate debate.
Why are kids at school not taught such basic things as how to live on a budget? I mean, even the kids who are destined for medicine will have to live as students for a while... surely a lot of them could benefit from knowing how to eat well on a budget. It's a message being missed - I live right near a large university and my local convenience store is ALWAYS full of students shopping for their essentials at double the price they need to pay, and loading up on lunchtime "meal deals" for at least fifteen times what a lunch needs to cost.
An attitude where people expect that it's normal to do things the expensive way, that's just setting us up for financial problems.