I've recently been following the blog of a friend who was doing a food bank challenge, Do The Math <<-- read up for more accurate information than I'm sure I'm going to provide...on a bit of a rage rant...
The challenge was to live off the 'menu' of what would typically be in a food bank box given to those who can't afford regular grocery trips, for one week.
Her daily blog through this experience is humerous and eye opening. www.swannys.tumblr.com <<-- go back to the first post and read onwards for the full story of how it all went down.
The overall conclusion, and what becomes very apparent while reading the accounts of the week, was that there is not enough food or nutrition being provided in these boxes. We all hear the ads at Christmas and Thanksgiving to donate food, but often the rest of the year we forget.
What upsets me is the realization of what people are donating. Pudding cups, canned beans and chocolate bars are not ANYTHING that someone living on a limited budget NEEDS. Yes, the food items need to be non-perishable, but then let's donate a box of whole grain rice, and not rice-a-roni.
The part that hits me is that nothing in this box are foods Toby and I can eat. What happens if you or your child have food intolerances or allergies? You can't just ask for the gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free box, because that's not the type of stuff people donate, and it certainly isn't anything some people can afford.
And it may well be that some people may not even know they have these intolerances, and so continue to eat bad food and feel sick and not be able to work. Kids are being misdiagnosed with ADD, which has commonly been linked back to a gluten intolerance or over sugaring.
Maybe that example is drastic, but the point is, there is little to no option when it comes to accepting food boxes. You either take it and eat it, or you (and your kids) starve.
If I didn't have the support of my family as far as a place to live and a safety net for when I can't afford groceries, I would most certainly be needing to use a food bank.
And that terrifies me.
It's not just middle aged 'bums' who use soup kitchens and food banks, it's people with families and small children who've lost their jobs suddenly. It's single parents who can barely keep a place to live, let alone healthy food on the table. And yet any talk of raising the amounts for government support for these people is 'abusing the system' and 'sucking more money out of tax payers'.
How are you supposed to afford a warm room and healthy food when your monthly expenses exceed the amount of income you earn?
Everyone talks about the hunger problem and the homeless problem, so why isn't anything (visibly) being done?
Why are community gardens being ripped up with no compromise? Why is it illegal in most places to plant edible plants where your lawn should be?
Wouldn't it be great if, instead of arguing ad nauseam about where the new swimming pool in town should be plunked or spending absurd amounts of money on non-art art outside the local library, we took those funds and bought one of the many vacant buildings scattered about and started a hydroponic year-round garden that's sole purpose is to go to the families and individuals using the food bank.
Fresh food. Year round.
Vitamins and nutrients that people desperately need, but maybe don't know they do because they just don't KNOW and have better things to worry about. Like a clean place to live. And clothes for their kids.
It sickens me that baby formula is one of the top donation 'asks', when breast milk is FREE. What if new moms were more educated in the benefits of breast milk, and didn't feel like they were being forced back to work after three months in order to have the money to just feed and house themselves.
But then again maybe the formula really does have more nutrients if the parent is living on flavoured oatmeal, chocolate pudding and KD....
I'm sure it's been said a bajillion times, but can't we DO Anything?? Not just in the way of donating more, but donating BETTER and SMARTER options for the food baskets??
The problem is so overwhelmingly impossibly huge.... But maybe, like the Do The Math Challenge, awareness is the beginning of a solution.