I’ve been contemplating writing this post for quite a while but through fears of other people’s judgement and insecurities about sharing very personal thoughts with the world. However I have decided that today is the day that I just need to get over myself and try to put my jumbled thoughts into some sort of coherent writing. Lets get personal.
As a child of a single mother, there wasn’t always money for the newest barbie doll or the coolest clothes. However there was always food in my belly and dinner on the table after school. I don’t ever remember going hungry. She did her absolute best and would always feed me and my sister before thinking about feeding herself. She often went without. We were really broke as kids, which I totally understand now. As a 20 something living independently, I constantly find my bank balance below zero, there is rarely anything left for a rainy day. I couldn’t even contemplate having to find the money to feed two growing children on top of my own ever increasing living costs.
Though we always had food in our bellies, I always remember that I never felt totally satiated. My mum can attest to the fact that my appetite was huge and even as a wee lass I often ate more than her. I now know the feeling the meaning of not quite feeling satiated, like I could carry on eating forever and never be full. This is the feeling I now realise is experienced when we eat the wrong foods, those foods that are okay to eat every now and then but seriously lacking in micro nutrients. You know the kinds of food I mean, processed, packaged, beige foods. Those heavily processed foods that taste great and tantalise our taste buds with their ‘flavours’ and salt. Yes they offer the macronutrients we need, fat, protein and carbohydrate but they are seriously lacking in micronutrients.
Micro nutrients are those vital vitamins and minerals that we find in wholefoods, fruit and vegetables. Those tiny things that are so essential for every bodily function. I know my mother tried her best to feed us good foods, but we were stony broke, me and my sister were kinda picky gals, and she was often working several jobs to make ends meet. Which often resulted in us eating our favourite beige foods. I’m talking those things that Jamie Oliver loves to hate so much. Turkey twizzlers, billy bear meat, smiley faces. Foods in novelty shapes that are laden with E numbers, fat and salt. Me and my sister loved that shit.
When we went to primary school the hot lunch there was certainly no better. More beige with some overcooked peas or carrots. There was always a stodgy pudding with custard. Where was the nutrition? No matter how much school dinner I ate I remember arriving home from school ravenous. Always hungry. I could eat four bags of crisps on the trot before dinner. In secondary school the food was even worse. I often took a packed lunch or I would leave school with my friends to go to the chip shop for our lunch. More beige.
Mum was working full time when we went to secondary school so we would go to the wonderland of Iceland to pick our ready meal dinners for the week. I got sick of them really quickly and it is around this time that I started cooking for myself. As we got older our food situation became much better. We had more money and there was always lots of salad, bowls of fresh fruit and generally better food.
Though every meal for me was basically an eating competition as a child, I remained as skinny as a rake. My teacher would joke that there was, ‘more meat on a butcher’s pencil.’ Then puberty hit. I was happy to grow boobs and a butt but I also piled on the pounds everywhere else. My appetite remained the same. I was always eating and never satisted. I grew bigger. Aged 15 I was undernourished and overweight. I developed bulimia nervosa (that’s another story for another day, maybe).
I really felt compelled to share my personal experience with you about essentially living in poverty in one of the most developed countries in the world. I don’t understand how the minimum wage can constantly fall below than the actual living wage. How is that justified? Just this morning I saw a post shared on social media.
I see similar articles like this all the time and don’t get me wrong, I love that food waste is being reduced, I think it is amazing. I am just so angered about the fact that in 2016, in one of the richest countries in the world, food insecurity is still a very real issue for a lot of people. People are regularly queuing up at food banks, dumpster diving and using food waste schemes as they actually cannot afford to put dinner on the table for their families. These schemes are becoming a lifeline for many people as living costs rise and wages remain low.
I really want to know why this is still an ongoing issue and why there isn’t more help for families in need. It sickens me to my core that in our society of excess, waste and over consumption that so many people are seriously struggling with basic living costs and filling their hungry bellies. The colossal gap between the rich and poor is so evident to me living in Bristol, England. I wish there were some way to redistribute excess wealth to the people that really need it.
We need to make good quality food nutritious food available to everybody from all socioeconomic backgrounds. There is the growing paradox of people in rich countries who are overweight and undernourished. Always full but never truly satisfied. I’m not talking about fat old men riddled with gout from one too many helpings of foie gras. I’m talking about the people that have no money. The poor people that have access to cheap, over processed beige foodstuff.
My mum did a really brilliant job of raising me and my sister with the little resources that she had. I am so grateful to her for teaching me to be the resilient and resourceful woman that I am today. I just really wish she had some help when she needed it. My mum has opened up to me as an adult about how she would oftentimes go hungry because there wasn’t enough food for all of us and of course, she was going to feed her babies before she fed herself. She has told me about the times she had to scrape mould off bread for us to eat because she didn’t have money for more food. She looked like she might have blown away in a strong gust when we were small children because she went without more often than not.
Give without remembering.
Take without forgetting.
I hope that food insecurity is something that none of you have ever had to live with, and that none of our children should ever know.
Questions for you…
- Have you ever faced food insecurity?
- Have you ever had to visit a food bank?
- What do you think can be done about the UK’s food insecurity problems?