Food poverty doesn't just make you hungry...

The face of a woman looking sad

Well that's it, we have finished our challenge for another year. It has been interesting and thought provoking and I want to say a big thank you to all those who have taken the time to read my blog and also to those who felt able to sponsor our endeavours.

As I was last year, I have been surprised by how this week has made me feel. How restricting my family’s eating has reminded me of some simple truths and, again, challenged my preconceptions. After all, it is only 5 days and I haven't starved, I have simply lived on a lot less than I usually do and thought a lot more about food and what it means to people. This week has reminded me that food poverty is not just about being hungry. Not having enough money to eat properly affects a person's life in so many ways. Firstly, food poverty hurts: the feeling of painful throbbing emptiness in your stomach that you can't ignore. The pain that distracts children as they try to learn at school, but can concentrate on nothing but how much their stomachs are aching.  

Food poverty is isolating: the refusal to attend a social gathering because you can't contribute to the spread, or the decision not to invite someone to your house as you have nothing to feed them. For me this week, I felt limited and unable to think how to fill my daughter's time without money to spend. Our house is on the market so we had to go out repeatedly during viewings. But where to go when you have no money to spend, particularly when the weather is poor. No cafes or supermarkets for us to spend time in!

Poverty is also just plain depressing. You're restricted, isolated, hungry. In a way you feel left out of society. Unable to engage with what those around you are doing because you don't have the money to join in. I am guilty of judging those I see on TV programs or on the streets who I know to be poor for spending what little they have on unnecessary luxuries like fast food or cigarettes. If I can produce reasonable meals on little money, why can't they? But this week has reminded me how much hard work it is to come up with cheap healthy food and how dull that food can become even over a short time frame. The depression of knowing that your limited income is set to continue infinitum, that you may never be able to afford even simple luxuries must be so hard to fight against. Why wouldn't you spend what little you have on something that makes you feel good temporarily to forget the bigger picture?

Two women with joy in their faces

I don't know what you would think about if you were asked to describe what living in poverty means? Would you think it meant not having shelter, food or water perhaps? In Brian Fikkert's book 'When Helping Hurts' he talks about a World Bank survey that was done in the 1990's, asking more than 60,000 people living in poverty: what is poverty? Rather than talking about material need their answers centred around issues of shame, humiliation, fear, depression, isolation, low self-esteem and powerlessness. These answers suggest that we need to rethink how we respond to poverty in our society. Though in some emergency situations it is necessary, simply giving someone food will not stop them going hungry in the future, nor will it take away a person's shame, fear or low self-esteem. There are no simply answers. If there were, academics, government and charities would not need to spend so much time trying to work out the best ways to help those in need. Yet I do agree with Brian Fikkert, that broken relationships are at the heart of the grinding poverty we see played out around the globe. Broken relationships with our self (how we see ourselves), with others (and the value we place on them) ,with creation (the earth's resources) and with God. Mending these relationships must be the first step in eradicating global poverty and allowing people to live in a dignified healthy and fulfilled way.


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