If you have been following the news recently, you may be too traumatised to visit your local Co-operative Supermarket. According to the BBC, armed gangs are causing £953 million of losses every year as they steal branded goods to order, from vapes at a local pharmacy to high-end tech goods at John Lewis. The Co-op reports almost 1,000 robberies a day in its stores and also that the police can’t even be bothered to show up 71% of the time. 

However, this is NOT the main story that a responsible national media platform should be reporting in this sensationalist way. The National Statistics survey really tells a story of people increasingly too poor to buy loo roll. In one report in East London, the main product stolen from the store shelf was not a brand new pair of Nike trainers or the latest Apple gadget, as the BBC and other main stream media would have you believe, but cough mixture stolen by mums who were unable to get a GP appointment and too poor to afford the eye-watering cost of medicine – but, hey ho, why write about the real crisis of poverty facing millions in Food Bank Britain when a story about gangs generates far more clicks for an increasingly hungry 24/7 news cycle?

Whilst the reports state shoplifting has seen an increase of 22%, which seems modest when millions are depending on food banks such as my own We Care Food Bank at Kath’s Place in Deptford, it’s only when you actually read the report that the figures are just eye-wateringly shocking. According to market research company, KANTAR, the cost of an average family shop is now £837 a year higher than one year ago, whilst this 22% shoplifting increase equates to 7.9 million reported cases of shoplifting in the past year alone, a staggering five million increase on 2016/17. The report makes it clear – not that you would have noted in mainstream news coverage – that the huge increase is NOT caused by roaming gangs, but by ordinary members of the public so desperate that they would risk a six-month jail term for stealing to eat, or provide nappies for their infants.

Whilst clearly these store losses are not sustainable, and I am fully aware of a popular store in my neighbourhood that is having to close because the cost of stolen goods was greater than its sales income, couldn’t stores do so much more? Should not the mainstream media be holding the Government to account? After all, its first duty of care is the welfare of its people, and, if increasing numbers of citizens have no money to eat or keep themselves clean at the basic level in the sixth richest economy in the world, should not this CRIME be laid firmly at the door of Government? Should not the stores work harder at helping to ensure their customers can afford to buy, rather than steal from the stores, by offering end-of-shelf-life and yellow label goods to customers at the end of the day on a FREE unit within the store? Could they not do as so many coffee shops do these days and ask those with money, who are buying toothpaste or sanitary towels, to buy another for someone in need who can’t afford it? 

At We Care Food Bank, we were recently given a £50 donation of food from ASDA Deptford, which bore no resemblance to the food that its customers buy in the store, to put into its in-store food bank donation boxes. Within 24 hours, we got a call from the store as they wanted our charity number. When I asked why, I was told it was so that they could ‘write it off’ for tax purposes. Are these stores really losing the £953 million they claim, or is this like the £50 of food Asda gave us, a giant tax write-off opportunity? Sadly, in 2023, the real news is NEVER on the news. You have to go online to do your own research – while keeping your wits firmly about you – and make your own judgment as to what you are being told to believe about the reality of life in Britain in 2023.

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