My Foodbank Challenge (4)

Although I hate to admit it, I didn’t completely fulfil the foodbank challenge. I managed just over three weeks. Why did I give in? Well there were a number of reasons:

  1. I really found it hard to put together a full meal from some of the foods, as there wasn’t always things that went together. A lot of this was probably me being quite choosy about what I eat. This resulted in me snacking a lot on things throughout the day and never really eating a proper meal. I think this ended up with me eating more in a day than I normally would and consuming more calories.
  2. The lack of fresh foods was something that I am not really used to. I don’t eat much tinned or processed food generally, so this was a bit of a shock to my system. I found a lot of the food unappetising, but again probably me being quite fussy.
  3. There seemed to be far too many carbs and not enough protein. In the week that I had eggs or cheese, it was a little easier, but I normally eat lots of fish and vegetable protein as well as quite a few eggs. I ate far too much bread and quite often had unhealthy things on the bread, such as chocolate spread.
  4. There just wasn’t enough milk for me. Even on the weeks when I didn’t have cereal, I found that I was really short of milk. I found myself drinking more coffee too, sometimes instead of eating properly.

After the three weeks, I have now returned to eating what I would normally eat. I have loved cooking foods from scratch this week and have enjoyed eating lots of fresh vegetables and fish. I’m still not the healthiest eater in the world, but I have really appreciated much more variety and being able to buy the foods that i love.

I have also found that I gained weight. I think that this is down to the processed foods along with the snacking. I have heard in the past, people saying things like ” well they hardly look like their starving, they can obviously afford junk food”. I don’t think it’s quite as straight forward as that. The cheaper foods that people buy fill you up and will feed a family on a budget, but they are not necessarily the healthiest of choices. Fresh foods and meals cooked from scratch are so much healthier, but you have to be able to afford them, have somewhere to store them and have a little bit of cooking and nutritional knowledge to put a decent meal together. Unfortunately not everyone is able to do this. Don’t assume that someone has to look skinny to be hungry or malnourished.

People ask why the foodbank doesn’t provide more fresh foods. The main reason is around longevity and storage. There are some fresh foods available most weeks, as well as frozen meats and other frozen foods. On a week to week basis no one knows how many referrals there will be, how many emergencies, whether there will be single people or large families in need. The only way to provide food in these circumstances is to have a good stock of basic tinned, dried and long life foods to ensure that there is always enough to provide for people in need. This can then be boosted with any fresh foods that are available.

Another thing that has reared its head again this week, particularly on social media, are the comments around “well they can afford a TV/Laptop/ weed/cigarettes (etc), why should we be providing them with food?” There is no simple answer to this. Some people cannot manage money very well, some may not prioritise, some may be struggling all the time, some may just be struggling short term. None of us are perfect. Lots of us are lucky enough to afford the things that we like as well as the things that we need. Using the services of a foodbank is not a lifestyle choice. It is a necessity for some people. How it became a necessity is not really for me to judge.

It is a personal choice whether you choose to give to a food bank or not, just the same as it is to give to any charitable cause. I will continue to volunteer and help where I can. I hope that I am never in a position to need the foodbank, but no one knows what the future holds or what help we might need.

Whatever your views, just be kind, try not to judge others who need help and hope that others won’t judge if you ever need help.

My Food Bank Challenge (3)

Well the second week of the food bank challenge has proved more challenging than the first. I have definitely needed a few more tweaks and additions than I did last week. A couple of times I have had to add fresh vegetables to my processed meals as I have just found them so bland and I have also mixed fresh vegetables so much.

On Saturday evening I was treated to a Chinese takeaway and a bottle of prosecco, which was really nice, but I know that a lot of people who are using the services of a foodbank would not be able to afford to buy extra takeaways.

On Friday evening my daughter cooked tea for me and my husband, which consisted of fresh prawns, cream chees, chillies, linguini and garlic bread. Again this was so delicious, but definitely not on the list of items from the foodbank.

On the plus side, the spread that I had initially has lasted me for the two weeks and I still have some left. I have not drink a full jar of coffee or used a full jar of chocolate spread. I also still have bread left as I am running out of ideas of what to put on or in my bread and there are only so many beans and spaghetti that one person can eat in a week. I have not used any of the sugar at all, as I do not have any in my tea or coffee.

Milk has been an issue again and I definitely cannot manage with only one litre of milk per week. Even though I have had porridge made with water this week, I still have not had enough milk.

I am definitely eating too many carbs and I find that I am eating more calories than usual, but it is not keeping me as full for as long, which means I seem to be snacking more often, which is not really a good habit to get into.

This week at the food bank we had eggs and cheese, which is really good news for me as it means that I can up my protein intake and also add a little more variety to my meals. It also gives me an extra choice of something to put on or in my bread.

Here’s to week Three!

My Foodbank Challenge

There has been so much controversy and discussion over the last few weeks around foodbanks, free school meals, Covid Assistance etc. In March I started volunteering at my local foodbank two afternoons a week. I really enjoy being around other people and it also made me feel that I was doing something worthwhile.

There are so many people in need of assistance these days and thee foodbank provides a really good service to people who need it. People can end up needing help from a foodbank or similar service for all sorts of reasons. It may be that their personal circumstances have changed leaving them struggling financially. They may have difficulty with mental health issues, disability or addiction. This year has been particularly bad, with people losing their jobs or having lower incomes due to furlough .

I have met people who have been embarrassed to find themselves at a foodbank for the first time in their lives and apologising for needing assistance. I have met young people who find themselves living alone without any support from their families and finding it impossible to keep to any sort of plan or budget. I have put food parcels together for people fleeing domestic violence who are living in hotel rooms.

Yes there will be those that know how to play the system and take advantage. There are those who may not prioritise food for their families. There are those that may have come too reliant on assistance and may not ever be able to mange on their own.

Whatever the reason being someone needing this type of assistance, I don’t feel I am in any position to judge.

Never Gone To Bed Hungry

I realise that I am in a very privileged position having never really known hunger. As a child, our family weren’t particularly well off, but we always had food on the table. Dad would hand over his wage to my mum each week and she had a tin with slots in for all the different bills. We always had money for food. My mum tells me that there was a short period of time when my brothers had free school meals when my dad was off work, but I certainly can’t remember this. The only time we ever went to bed hungry was if you had been naughty and got sent to bed without supper, although my brother informed me recently that he kept a stash of food in his room just for those particular moments!

I also know that my children have never known real hunger. They have had three square meals a day throughout their lives. Even after my eldest daughter left home for university, she always knew that we would help her out with either money or a few bags of food when she came to visit.

I know that I over eat. My meals are generally healthy but I top that up on a far too regular basis with sweets, crisps, biscuits, chocolate and baked goods. I also buy too much food, waste too much food and have the privilege of being picky about which brands I choose.

So What’s The Challenge?

At the foodbank, we have sometimes discussed whether we would manage on the food that the service users receive. The food is mostly tinned, dried or long shelf life. It is the staple things that most people have in their store cupboards. We also are really lucky that we receive donations of fresh food which allows us to give out fresh food alongside the staples. The food is expected to last for a week.

So I have decided to set myself a challenge of living for a month on the food that I would receive if I relied on a food bank. I’ve not done this to prove that it can be done, but to understand the harsh realities of people who are really struggling to make ends meet.

Armed with the standard list, I went to the supermarket today and bought the items (thought I’d better clarify that I didn’t take them from the foodbank!) Luckily today in the foodbank we also had a few fresh items, so I added those to my list too, to give a true reflection of what I would have received had I needed a food parcel today. My challenge will start tomorrow morning and the food should last me for a week. I am hoping to continue the challenge for four weeks.

I will update you next week on how I have got on. I will be honest if I have waivered, cheated or just given in altogether.

The whole point of this is to raise awareness around food poverty and the work of foodbanks and other similar services. I want people to think about the amount of money they spend on food and to count their blessings that they don’t have to wonder where their next meal is coming from.

I would also like you to consider making a donation to your local foodbank. You can donate food, toiletries, cleaning products, feminine hygiene products or cold hard cash. If you’re unsure what to donate, contact your local food bank and ask them what they need.

As one of my daughter’s friends posted on twitter recently : “You’re a lot closer to having to use food banks than you are to doing your weekly shopping at Harrods”