What’s it like to live on food bank fare? – An Article of Interest

An article of interest from the Toronto Star
This is an article that may be of interest to some of our members. It is not related to DISC or SAID.

What’s it like to live on food bank fare?

Published On Mon Apr 12 2010
Laurie Monsebraaten Social Policy Reporter

For the past week, 10 prominent Torontonians have been living on food bank rations from the Stop Community Food Centre to experience life on social assistance and to raise awareness about Ontario’s low welfare rates. (A single person on welfare gets a maximum of $585 per month.) The Stop wants Queen’s Park to introduce a $100 healthy food supplement for every adult on welfare. For more visit Stop’s “Do the Math” website .

The challenge ends Tuesday at 7 p.m. with a town hall meeting at the Wychwood Barns where participants will discuss their experiences.

The Star checked in with some of the participants Monday, to see how they were managing.

Michael MacMillan, 53, former head of Alliance Atlantis media, co-founder of Samara Canada

I ran out of food by Saturday morning (after four days). I was so annoyed and feeling so grouchy that I didn’t bother going to a soup kitchen. I just gave up. I had already found the point of the exercise and that is that it isn’t possible to survive on a food bank diet.

What was the most elaborate or adventurous meal you prepared?

I’m a cook and I fancy myself as someone who can whip up a tasty meal with almost nothing. Twice I made hot dog pilaf with brown rice, sautéed onions and chopped up hot dogs. It was okay, edible. But I had to eat a lot of it to fill myself up.

Any surprises?

It was strange how I still felt hungry and yet stuffed with carbohydrates. It was an awful feeling.

Dr. David McKeown, 55, Toronto Medical Officer of Health

I’ve been able to stay on it mostly by not eating very much. As a result, I’ve lost 5 lbs. I went to a drop-in centre for a meal last week and was given a take-out meal when I left which was a bonus.

What do you have left?

I have a handful of cereal (Almond Crunch) but no milk. Two eggs I have been saving. Some left-over stew and a banana from my take-out lunch. I may have to visit a drop-in one more time though.

What was the most difficult part?

I was hungry most of the time and had very low energy.

Just the lack of choice. Food is a very important part of our life and I didn’t get to eat any of the things that I enjoy. In work settings, and family settings with friends, I couldn’t join in with the food that was part of the events. So there is a sense of isolation that you get when you are not able to be a part of what others who have more resources are enjoying. Food is very much a part of our family and cultural life.

Catherine Mihevc, 11, Grade 5 daughter of Toronto Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21-St. Paul’s) whose wife and 15-year-old daughter also participated.

My mom and dad went to two or three drop-ins (for meals) so that my sister and I could have more. We didn’t go because we were in school or too busy. I wasn’t really hungry but that’s because my mom and dad let my sister and me eat before they ate.

What was the most elaborate or adventurous meal that you prepared?

We were allowed to use five pantry items in addition to what we got from the food hamper so I mixed flour and water to make flatbread. It’s pretty bland. But we put a lot of peanut butter on it so it tasted okay.

What was the hardest part?

Watching other people eat when you can’t. We went to the farmer’s market on the weekend and it was really hard not to buy anything. When my friends came over, I felt rude not being able to give them anything to eat.

Anand Rajaram, 38, actor with Video Cabaret.

Most days, I only ate one meal. But the four onions I got were rotten. The canned peas were past their due date and were gray, so I couldn’t eat that either. I couldn’t eat the peanut butter or the oatmeal because there was too much sugar in them and I don’t like what that does to my body… So I ran out of food on Sunday and stopped.

What was the hardest part?

The second day was the hardest. After that I hit a hunger stupor… It took me back (to about 10 years ago) when I was on social assistance myself. A couple of (acting) gigs fell through and I had maxed out my credit cards and I couldn’t go to my family because I didn’t want to panic them. I felt trapped and marginalized again.

Any surprises?

I don’t know if it was hunger, but this has never happened to me before. One day last week my foot fell asleep without the tingling feeling you usually get. And when I got up on stage I fell over. It was this awful dizzy feeling.

What did you learn about hunger?

I constantly saw metaphors when I was doing this. When I opened my fridge I saw all this food from just before the challenge – fresh fruit and vegetables – I’ve got everything I need to make a really healthy meal, but I can’t eat it because I have to eat what’s in front of me. It’s a metaphor for how our society is too. You are living like this and yet there is food right in front of you that you can’t access. You walk by shops with baked goods or huge garbage bags full of food they couldn’t use because they were a day old.

Rosina Kazi, 35, lead singer for the band LAL.

We ate breakfast and tried our best to each lunch and dinner, but the lack of vegetables and choice really made it hard. We had lunch twice at the Stop and both times the food was amazing. It shocked me to see so many people in need of food at one place but it was also amazing to see what a good community support system there was at the Stop.

What was the hardest part?

Not having coffee! But really, the hardest part was dealing with … my own guilt around privilege and my emotional attachment to food. It’s much harder when you have little choice and not the best food to eat. I felt unfocussed and sad a lot.

What did you miss the most?

Chicken and cheese.

What did you learn from this experience?

I realized how food affects me. It’s a huge part of me dealing with my issues around self, depression, stress … I realized how so many other societal issues intersect with the lack of having a healthy food choice. If you don’t feel good and have energy and you eat tonnes of processed food then it will affect you, in ways we don’t even realize. Healthy food should not be just for those can afford it but for all.


Comments are closed.

SaskDISC.ca - Saskatchewan Disability Income Support Coalition
This website and all of it's content are protected by copyright © 2007-2019 SaskDISC.ca: All Rights Reserved by AJB