Nelson Food Cupboard’s Chew on This Challenge wrapped up last Thursday night with participants sharing their experience during a dinner at the United Church.
Kim Charlesworth from the Food Cupboard said the goal of the challenge was to raise awareness of the realities for people living in poverty.
Twenty-two participants used local food banks and kitchens to feed themselves for seven days with a $10 budget. They were allowed to use pantry items such as spices, cooking oil, tea and coffee but nothing stored in their freezer. They were able to accept one free meal as well.
Charlesworth presented the challenge on October 16 as part of World Food Day. With the upcoming election, local food services are bring homelessness and struggles of the working poor to the forefront. They want policy makers to have practical insight into the day to day realities of living without adequate resources.
Charlesworth said a common sentiment through participants was best articulated by Jim Reimer when he said “even though they thought we knew what it was like for our clients, although I knew what it was like intellectually, it gave me an emotional connection and am extremely grateful for the services.”
Cherese Guille, financial services officer at the Credit Union joined the challenge after hearing about it while organizing a food drive at work.
“I realized it doesn’t take much to be in the same situation,” said Guille referring to the people she met at Our Daily Bread who rely on the lunch program for sustenance. She visited three of the four food services. She found them different in what they offered but the one thing they had in common was how “welcoming and non-judgemental” they were.
“You don’t want to take more than you should so the first time I took two carrots and two potatoes,” said Guille. “But then I got a little hungry.”
She was impressed with how much is donated to the agencies.
“I had no idea that the Salvation Army offered cooking classes, blankets, clothing, showers and laundry for free. Twenty five families use the showers everyday. That means without their services there are at least 25 families who would not be able to. At Our daily Bread there are 100 people per day who rely on their lunches.”
Guille said her $10 budget went fast. She purchased one litre of milk, one sweet potato, three mushrooms, one zucchini, one can of chickpeas, three apples and one pear.
During that week, the credit union staff and members collected 600 pounds for their food drive.
Stuart Horn, Regional District of Central Kootenay CAO, also participated in conjunction with a food drive at the RDCK office. For him the week highlighted the lack of balance of available protein. He said there are great organizations and the volunteers work so hard at meeting the demands but it’s really up to the people who give donations. There are a top 10 list of things needed that center around protein.
“Pasta and sauces are great but three cans of tuna would probably go further,” he said.
Playing hockey three times per week and working out in the morning he found it difficult to get enough protein. His main protein for the week from the food bank was a dozen eggs, a small block of tofu, and a can each of salmon and beans. He bought one pound of ground beef on sale for three dollars and didn’t think he would have been able to make it through the weekend without it. He spent $5 on a food card at Our Daily Bread’s soup kitchen but he could only attend one lunch due to his work schedule.
He said he now appreciates his lifestyle which he took for granted.
“It was only one week (for me) but other people in this situation don’t have a finish line. They have to do this week after week. We can do a lot more like helping someone getting ready for job interviews or other ways.”
The challenge was made possible by the Credit Union and Save-on Foods who reimbursed food costs to the food agencies and the Kootenay Co-op sponsored the wrap-up dinner which was served by the Wildflower School middle school students.
Charlesworth encourages the public to complete the online survey “Do the math” at dothemath.thestop.org/survey.