NJPN Comment in the Catholic Universe: Stopping the Shopping

Fr Rob Esdaile

It started by accident, but I haven’t been in a supermarket for a month. In fact, the only food products that have entered my home are the regular milk delivery and a couple of cakes dropped off by parishioners (an occupational hazard!)

First, I was just too busy to get to a shop; then away for three days for a wedding; then too busy (again!); then leading a pilgrimage for four days … by which time I’d realised that I still had loads of food in the house. I wondered how long I could hold out. After 10 days I was out of fresh vegetables (apart from onions and garlic). After 20 days I’d run out of potatoes. I’m pretty sick of frozen beans and peas by now but I reckon I could easily continue for another week … except I’ve run out of cat food, under-lining the truth which anyone who shares their home with a feline eventually has to acknowledge: they run the place.

My boycott of shops didn’t start as a protest, but it gradually became one: chiefly against myself. How is it that I, a single man who always restricts his weekly shop to what can be held in one supermarket basket, can end up with enough food stored away to last five weeks?

That affluence sets me (uncomfortably) against the recipients of the 1,332,952 emergency packs handed out by the Trussel Trust’s foodbanks in the year to March 2018. Far too many people cannot afford to buy their ‘daily bread’, never mind storing it up for a rainy day. Too many children will be going hungry during the summer holidays.

The inequality of our society is visible every time I open my freezer – though no longer when I open the fridge (now down to two eggs and a slice of cheese)! Whichever side of the food divide you find yourself, there’s also a psychological point to be addressed. We live in a world of plenty, yet the mechanism that drives consumerism is a manufactured sense of scarcity. All the BOGOF offers, the maxi-packs and the bulk purchases are based on a fear that ‘things might run out’. That’s certainly possible in a world of seven billion hungry mouths, globalised supply chains and climate change. But the urge to hoard is embedded in the soul, not the stomach or the rational mind. And to counter that taught insecurity, perhaps the best therapy might be to open the freezer and wonder at the way we shop


Our Lady of Lourdes, Thames Ditton

Annual NJPN Conference, 22-22 July.

See www.justice-andpeace. org.uk/conference/