Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Saskatoon Food Basket Challenge

Trying to Understand Hunger and Poverty in Saskatoon

I value good food, and I spend a large percentage of my budget on food. I feel very fortunate that I have always had sufficient financial means to buy food and I’ve never had to use the Saskatoon Food Bank, but I’m aware that for many people that is the only option.

My sister in law, Inspector Shelley Ballard, is one of the participants in this week’s Food Basket Challenge. The participants have all agreed to live for one week on the contents of a basket from the Saskatoon Food Bank, along with 5 staples from their cupboard and $5.

It is, in many ways, an artificial exercise, as they will go back to their regular budget and eating habits at the end of the week. However, the discussion on the Food Basket Challenge’s website and Facebook page is thought-provoking, and I’m looking forward to follow the participants’ progress over the next week.

Personal challenges
There are so many different issues for the participants to consider:

“Can I keep it up for a week, or will I cave in and go back to my old habits?”

“I’m a vegetarian or I have food allergies. Will the Food Bank allow me to substitute one item for another?”

“Will I have enough energy to work effectively?”

“Will I still be able to socialize?”

Using our imagination 
I think that all the participants are beginning to realize that in order to participate in the Challenge, they must put themselves in the shoes of a person with a limited budget who is forced to use the Food Bank in order to survive. And that requires imagination.

“If I was using the Food Bank, would I have a car and be able to drive around town to take advantage of specials? Probably not.”

“Would I have time or a space to plant a garden? Would I know how to grow fruit and vegetables?”

“Would I be volunteering at events where I’d receive free food, or would I be too busy just keeping my head above water?”

“Where could I find free food (a free meal at my place of employment, supermarket samples)?”

“How do I make my diet less boring and monotonous? Herbs and spices can provide a much more varied eating experience, but the initial purchase is expensive.”

“Will starchy foods and carbohydrates replace fresh fruit and vegetables because they’re cheaper and more filling?”

First person accounts
A first person accounts event will take place on Thursday, September 15, at 2:00 at the Salvation Army. A panel of people who have had struggles accessing food and shelter will present their stories. A question and answer period will take place after their presentations. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Defining poverty 
Shelley pointed out to me that I have lived in poverty at various times in my life, and this made me realize that there are many different levels of poverty, and it is often difficult to identify people who live in poverty.

I am fortunate to have a good education and a network of supportive family and friends. My appearance, my cultural and social background all ensure that I can fit in and not stand out as a “poor” person. People in poverty are our friends and neighbours.

Making a difference 
One of the things that I hope to learn is how I can make a difference. What foods should I be donating to the Food Bank to help improve the selection? Would it be better to donate money?

I am haunted by one woman’s comment on Facebook about how painful it had been for her to listen to her baby crying from hunger.

How can we work together to fight poverty? How can I make a difference?


Suemac said...

An interesting challenge and I would be interested in hearing more. Looking back over the years, when I had three children under the age of 5, wasn't working, and my (ex!) husband wasn't earning much, we still seemed to eat well. I think this was because I had time to shop around and cook meals (no fast food!) so I could stick to my budget.

Roberta Fehr said...

I was a single mother and sometimes had to rely on the food bank and the kindness of others just to get by. I worked sometimes 2 jobs and rarely saw my kids during the day. Now that my kids are grown and due to some many health issues I am again living in poverty. This time I cannot use the food bank as I have food allergies, stomach problems and I am a diabetic. My struggle is even harder now so I tend to skip meals to make it through the month. I still volunteer my time to a non profit organization to make a difference in my community. Just would like to know when and why my first voice experience does not count for much in the eyes of the upper class who could and should fund this organization properly. Saskatoon Equal Justice is trying to find the justice that is lacking in our society. Please help us to help others up and out of poverty.