Food Challenge: YUMMO!!!
I’ve posted here before on food related issues as a commentator, blogger and local busybody. But today I begin posting as a full-on participant in the Grey Bruce Put Food in the Budget Campaign.
I may have come to the official challenge a bit late in the game. But I’ll let you in on a not-so-little secret. This is a real challenge for me in my daily life. I’m on ODSP and have used the Food Bank this year, and I’m bound to do so in the coming months.
First, an admission. My good friends know me as a bon vivant, someone in love with fine food and cooking. If I have a few bucks saved by the end of the month, chances are I’m going to “blow” it on a few treats—prosciutto, cheeses, ethnic ingredients. Lest you see a disconnect, bear in mind that in all things (including regular groceries) I am frugal, a lesson well learned from my mom.
My background is strictly working-class and my dad was terrible with money. My mom, however, taught me to truly love food. Not to fetishize it in some frivolous “foodie” way, but to appreciate it in a manner befitting people who have had to work hard to put things on the table, and who enjoy and are grateful for what they receive. Growing up, mom scrimped and saved and went without in every other area simply to make sure that we benefited from fresh, nutritious, high quality ingredients. It rubbed off on me, because I’ve learned to take pride in the whole process, from meal planning to shopping to cooking to eating. I can make a food dollar go quite far.
Great. But you will still need clothes. You will still need to keep your lights on and your heat on. You will need to provide for your own transportation, and above all you will need to maintain shelter. Many of these expenditures are fixed and take large chunks out of your budget. Most of us budget around these things first, while food can have a flexible and discretionary quality to it. It’s often difficult to go to the supermarket and tell yourself not to spend more than X amount of dollars, especially when you have to replenish staples. And no matter how frugal you are, you are always at risk of some emergency which will mess up your monthly budget.
And what happens if you’re truly at rock-bottom? When it’s mid-month and your cheque has been stretched past the snapping point, and the pantry is bare because you’ve used all the flour making biscuits, and there’s nothing in the fridge but half a tub of margarine? Simple: you call the Food Bank. You do your best with what they give you. You give thanks for what you get, and for the fact that there is an agency—any agency at all!—that can provide some assistance.
Been there, done that. Will do it again. And not for a public awareness campaign, but because that is what inevitably happens when you live below the poverty line.