I had intended to write everyday during the breadline challenge but once I hit Wednesday, I was suffering from mid challenge slumps. The day was a bit of struggle; I had low energy levels and lacked focus at work, and the rest of week remained similar.
What I have realised during this week is that; yes it may be possible to eat and drink on a budget of £20.02 a week; yes, you can buy food cheaply; and it is an interesting culinary challenge. However, it also requires a lot of planning and your day and week is organised around food. You have to become strategic when thinking about your food consumption. When is it okay to have a snack? Will this fill me up until dinner? How long can I delay my breakfast to stop mid-morning hunger pangs?
For the participants on the breadline challenge, Sunday will be the end. For millions, this is not the case. It’s a relentless struggle to make sure they are fed. The media may discuss the number of food parcels the food banks are giving out, increasing quantities of food that is being wasted but what is not being discussed enough is the serious impact living in food poverty has on your mental, physical and social health.
There is more to food than just eating. Most modern social interactions seem to revolve around food or drink. If you are living on a budget where you are restricted to £2.86 a day, that simply isn’t an option. Social interaction becomes increasingly difficult and this situation presents itself in a perpetual cycle. I experienced this on Friday. While out with friends, I couldn’t afford to buy any food or drink and it was difficult, considering others around me were able to purchase whatever they wished. Although, I planned ahead for this and bought along some snacks, I still felt separated from the group because of that.
Of course, I have only covered food and drink budget during this week. I haven’t needed to consider electricity, water or rent payments If an emergency arises such as delayed benefits, reduction of work hours, boiler breaking down, then food falls even lower on the priority order. It becomes a question between keeping yourself warm or eating.
We are only doing this for a week and have only been given the smallest insight into what it is like to live on such a small budget. As a hub leader, I regularly interact with our guests and hear about their stories and life. But until you live under such a restrictive budget, you can’t really appreciate the potential implications of food poverty.
What I have learnt this week is that food can be cheap, but eating on a budget easily descends into boredom, isolation and feeling removed from your environment. Nutritionally, there is not a lot of variety. I spent longer thinking about food then anything else. And despite becoming all consuming, food became just another thing I had to get done. It started to lose its pleasure.
I might be biased towards this, but the work that FoodCycle does to reduce social isolation and food poverty by fighting food waste is incredible. It is an opportunity for our guests to have a hot, nutritious and healthy three-course meal. The environment and opportunity to interact with other people is incredibly valued by all our guests.
Finally, I am raising money for FoodCycle LSE and anything that you may have to support our project will be incredibly valuable to our guests and the community meals we serve every Sunday. If you would like to give anything to support us, you can do so here. All the donations will go directly to us and help support our project at the Food Chain.