Today’s Panorama is a pale imitation of the programmes overseen by the late Sir Robin Day and last week’s disjointed take on the nation’s rapidly growing food poverty crisis (Hungry Britain?, BBC1, 8.30pm, 3 March) was a case in point.
The premise was simple enough: are people using food banks just out for a freebie? Unfortunately, the issue was severely clouded by the conflation of the issue with the impact benefit cuts have had on the nation’s unemployed - a serious subject that surely deserves its own show.
The ‘hard luck’ case studies only served to muddy the waters. Pregnant teenager Sharron Wookey, who was on benefits and living in a hostel with her boyfriend, regularly used a food bank because otherwise she wouldn’t have enough money to pay off her loan sharks. Ian had his benefits withdrawn and was so skint he had to sell his CD collection just so he could eat. He was - rather cruelly - filmed dolefully flicking through CDs in a record shop.
With the government failing to answer some of the basic questions raised, the documentary lacked balance: Instead, it got… former health minister Edwina Currie! Edwina headed to a food bank in Derbyshire to patronise the patrons.
After asserting there was no such thing as food poverty, she was apoplectic to discover the bank was handing out crisps and Super Noodles.
Thankfully, pastor Christian Thorpe was on hand to reassure her that “a little bit of something is better than nothing”. Quite.