FoodCycle HQ do the #BreadlineChallenge
Caffeine withdrawals, rumbling stomachs, black market teabag deals and wistful day-dreaming about peanut butter: it’s safe to say the FoodCycle office is an interesting place to be during Breadline Challenge week! Here, the team reflect on what they have learnt from the week…
I’m doing the Breadline Challenge with my partner to encourage us to reflect on how fortunate we are to have a comfortable food budget. We take for granted how easily we nip out at lunchtime to pick up a meal deal, grab a takeaway on the way home if we’ve had a long day at work or fail to think of ways to use the resources sitting there in our cupboards, fridge and freezer.
I’ve found the Challenge really hard – I’ve been ill and so there are times when I’ve broken and eaten something out of budget. At the beginning, I spent two-thirds of my money in LIDL: I made two different soups to not get bored and managed to eat a lot of fruit.
The Challenge has kind of reminded me of when I wanted to lose weight: the hunger I felt then is like the hunger I’ve felt this week. I played 8 hours of drums this week which was hard afterwards when I was hungry and didn’t have the energy. I’ve gone through that before but I did find myself thinking about food a lot, what you need to have energy and what you need to survive on.
When I got home from my Sunday afternoon shop (£10.90 in Lidl, Sainsbury’s and a greengrocer) I decided to cook meals for the week ahead. Something that initially struck me was how I hadn’t had the budget to buy flavourings other than stock cubes, and so all of the meals I prepared taste exactly the same. I foraged some rosemary from a neighbour’s front garden (sorry, John!), which helped somewhat, but certainly isn’t something that is available to everyone. It struck me how adding salt, sugar and oil is a cheap and easy way of making meals taste better, but that it comes at the cost of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes – something that affects so many people living with food poverty today.
I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic boyfriend, some wonderful friends and an ever-faithful family, who have been understanding when I turn down their invitations this week in favour of going home to eat the meals my budget would allow. But the biggest support this week has come from the 5 friends in the FoodCycle team who are also taking the Breadline Challenge. Our office, usually full of coffee, snacks, samosa lunches and plans for post-work drinks, has been somewhat subdued as we stop offering each other tea and sharing food like every other day. Despite this, we’ve managed to maintain positivity, optimism and high-spirits – because we know we’re in it together. It’s been an absolutely lifeline to rely on their support.
Many of our guests, particularly those among the 57% that live alone, don’t have that network of people to rely on. For them, and so many others, the Breadline Challenge is not a challenge: it’s their life, and something they must deal with every day – whether or not they have a bunch of colleagues going through the same thing.
I found this year’s Challenge a bit better than previous years: I had made sure that I bought some nice veggies and made some dahl which I love.
The really hard thing has been that I have been travelling a lot this week visiting FoodCycle Clacton and FoodCycle Leeds (who I love seeing!) – but my Tupperware box of congealed dahl looked a lot less tempting on the late night train home. I was also quite thirsty and when I finished my water on the train, I couldn’t buy any more or top it up – it really reminded me of the challenges our guests go through on a daily basis.
While you will never understand fully in one week the realities of food poverty in Britain, taking part in the Breadline Challenge is a powerful way to shine a spotlight on this issue. By taking time to understand, taking time to reflect, share stories, emotions and challenges, we are taking the first step to tackling this complex issue.
My breakfasts of porridge and stewed apples have resembled concrete, my cuppas have been insipid, I’m tired of having the same soup for lunch every day and I’m really looking forward to eating something that requires a knife once the week is over.
The hardest thing about the Breadline Challenge isn’t the hunger – that, I can deal with – it’s the lack of energy. I usually go to an outdoor gym class and do a couple of runs a week. This week, I’ve done nothing apart from go to bed early every night. The links between poverty, low energy and poor mental health are clear to see. This campaign is a reminder that hunger is a reality for the millions of people across the country – and that it doesn’t end when the week is over.
Nicky (honourary FoodCycler – and Sarah’s boyfriend!)
Why am I doing the Breadline Challenge? To experience first-hand what it is like for people who face this challenge every day and appreciate the privileges that we take for granted.