I hope you all won’t mind my being serious in this post. It’s a departure from my normally random light-heartedness but it’s a topic that hits very close to home and is difficult for me to talk about. I hope I don’t embarrass my family for talking about this. I just feel I need to share it so you can understand why it’s so important to me.
I don’t talk often about my childhood. There are so many facets of it that made it very different and odd than most people’s I think. Maybe we all think that about our respective childhoods. I don’t know.
I grew up in a single-parent family with my mother and my brother. We were on social assistance. There was never enough money. Not enough money to have fun things. Not enough money for necessities. As a kid, it was hard to understand why. There were times that I’m sure we could have benefited from an emergency food basket from the Food Bank but I know my mother would have been too proud to do that.
I think a lot of people might assume that the ones who need food from the food bank are on the edges of society – the ones who ‘brought it on themselves’ maybe. I think it’s important to recognize that normal families who, by no fault of their own, other than really horrible circumstances may need that help too.
I remember some of the meals my mom had to try to make to stretch the last can of lentils and last bit of rice before the next welfare cheque. I remember we thought it tasted horrible and we complained and whined. We were kids, we didn’t know any better. Now that I’m an adult, my heart breaks thinking how that must have felt for my mom at the time.
When I’d have friends over to play and they’d ask to stay for supper, my mom would have to say no. We simply didn’t have enough to feed another mouth. I’d get made fun of – even years later – because it was weird that I was allowed to eat at other friends houses but they were never allowed to eat at my house. They always had to go home before supper.
The worst of that time of our lives is now many years in the past. I am thankful and feel blessed that I am no longer living in those circumstances. I feel fortunate that we are able to live and eat well and support our special dietary requirements without concern about where our next meal comes from. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget where I’ve been. And I think often about those who struggle.
On Thursday, September 13, 2012, the Food Basket Challenge begins in Saskatoon.
Local high profile community figures have volunteered to experience living life for one week with the contents of a Food Basket, a few basic staples, and small budget of $5 for additional food. One week.
The purpose of this challenge is to “generate meaningful conversations about poverty issues and solutions.”
Some of this year’s participants suffer from Celiac Disease or have a gluten intolerance. It will be eye-opening to see how they survive on a food basket that is likely going to contain a lot of gluten. You should check out this vlog by Heather Morrison of Magic 98.3, one of the participants this year, talking about her concerns about gluten during the challenge.
I catch myself often wondering about how my mother would have cared for our needs if one of us had Celiac Disease or another food-related allergy/intolerance. Would it have been easier to ignore the condition just to put food on the table? I think so. And I believe that’s the case for many families who are in need and in this very same situation.
I personally will be following the progress of these ones in the Food Basket Challenge with a keen interest as I feel that not only will they be raising awareness about poverty and food issues in general, but also the importance of dietary-specific food needs for those who are living in poverty. This is a topic that is especially important to me and one I hope to be able to address in the coming months working with the Saskatoon Food Bank.
I strongly encourage you to learn more about the Saskatoon Food Basket Challenge and follow along as the participants blog and share their experiences in the days leading up to the challenge and how they’re feeling not only physically but mentally and emotionally throughout this challenge.
And now to close this rather emotionally exhausting blog post I want to say thank you to my mother. I didn’t appreciate what she went through raising us in a single-parent home on income assistance with little means. She did the best she could with what she had and I think she did pretty damn awesome despite everything that was against her. I am proud of my mother and I am proud of the way she raised us.