Jay Rayner’s Insanity – Solve Food Poverty By Making Food More Expensive!


That Jay Rayner scribes a decent restaurant review is true. That he’s grasped even the most basic of economic concepts is not. For here he’s arguing that the solution to food poverty is to make food more expensive. Which is, of course, insane.

He’s also showing himself to be disturbingly conservative. We really should – must he insists – be doing things in the old ways, not this modern new fangled civilisation stuff.

What’s more, the conversation around food poverty is a block to us fixing our broken food supply chain. The fact is this: we pay too little for our food, just 10% of disposable income , down from 20% in 1970. We also expect to continue being able to do so. It’s why our agriculture sector has withered to a point where only 50% of the food we eat has been produced here. (Another 10% is exported.) If we don’t start paying more, allowing our agriculture sector to invest and expand production, we will end up paying so much more in the future, when we are held to ransom by the international markets.

It’s really odd that. We’ve been relying upon the international markets since 1846. They’ve not raised prices on us yet. But next year in Jerusalem, right?

Still, note what he’s saying. We have food poverty. We don’t spend enough on our food. We should pay more for our food – food should be more expensive. Atta boy, that’s the way to solve the problem, isn’t it? Reduce poverty by making something more expensive.

There’s also that incredibly conservative assertion there. We currently spend around 10% of incomes on food. Hmm, a touch undercooked there but still. A full generation back we used to spend 20% of income on food. Back to the old ways peasants!

Eh, whut? What’s so right about 20% of income being spent upon food? Why not 30% as was true in the 1950s? Why not 70 to 80 % on food and rent together as in the 1850s? Hell, why did we bother getting out of the neolithic when the food only bill was even higher? Hunter gatherers seem to spend 100% of their time – thus their budget – on food given that they tend not to have anything other than food and food gathering equipment.

What is it with this modernity and three squares a day anyway?

Rayner’s also not complaining about neoliberalism here, or CAP, or the NFU. His bitch is with civilisation itself. That we all have to devote less of our available production time to food – which is what a smaller food bill as a portion of our income is, by definition – is the very thing that allows us to have that rest of that civilisation. It’s only when we’re not at a subsistence lifestyle – again by definition the one at which we spend all available time trying to eat – that we can have health care, ballet, libraries and – even – restaurants.

Actually, Rayner’s worse than insane here, he’s ignorant about the very world that gave birth to him. Which isn’t a good start to trying to tell us how this world should be, is it?