Monday, July 5, 2010

Define Hungry

So how many of you out there regularly complain about being hungry?? You know.. say things like "I'm soooo hungry, I could eat a horse" ?? I'm pretty sure you do. I do. Quite a lot. I sometimes even throw about the term 'starving' if I'm feeling particularly dramatic. Just like a few nights ago, before I went to a blogger dinner, I tweeted (without even thinking about it) 'p.s. I'm starving.'

Except, I'm going to have to admit now, that was an unintentional lie. I was hungry in the sense that I hadn't eaten since 11 a.m., but in the dictionary definition sense of being starving, I wasn't.

For me, good food has always been plentiful. I have ALWAYS and without exception had access to food that not only tastes good, but is also healthy and filling. There has never been an occasion when I have gone hungry, or had to consider the possibility of not being able to afford to eat. Most people I know haven't either.

In a first world country we tend to associate problems like hunger and malnutrition with third world nations. You know the ones you see on the news dotted with African children with protruding ribs?? Or Indian children begging in the streets? Or refugee camps lined with thousands of people begging for aid? It's easy to identify that these poor people are starving- it's obvious. Those people live somewhere else... Overseas. Their countries are, in many cases, politically unstable, war torn, weather ravaged. They are definitely the first people that spring to mind when the term hunger is mentioned.

Do you even know anyone who is or has been hungry? I mean really hungry. I had to think, aside from obviously homeless people I'd seen on the street , I didn't think I knew anyone. And then a little memory popped into my head, it wasn't much, but it was something to indicate to me that maybe I had forgotten to notice the people that were hungry. I can vividly remember this day but I've never really spoken about it, or talked about it, because it didn't seem like a big deal. But for some reason, the memory is still there, gnawing at my conscience. Time to bring it out in the open.

When I was about 6 or 7, not sure exactly but definitely lower primary school, one girl in my class came to school and we went to put our lunch orders in together. Let's call her J. She told me that her mum had to borrow $5 from her neighbour to buy a loaf of bread, with some money left over for her lunch order. J told me that she wasn't allowed to have juice that day, only a salad cup. J said that her mum didn't have any money left at all. As a child, I thought this meant that J's mum had left her wallet somewhere, or maybe her Dad forgot to bring some money home from work. (My Dad owns his own business so that's the way I thought it had always worked in my house) I had no concept of the fact that the family had no money. None. Now, when you are growing up, you become aware of kids at school who go without, but weirdly, this wasn't one of the children who was easily identifiable. Sadly, I also remember J telling me that this was a HUGE secret and her Mum had told her not to tell anyone about having to borrow money. Obviously her Mum was embarrassed about the situation and felt she couldn't let anyone know. Thank heavens she felt comfortable asking the neighbour, because this neighbour was responsible for J and her brother and sister not going hungry this particular day.

Maybe, because in our stable, rich, 'lucky country' most people aren't starving, it is easy to forget about the 2.2 million Aussies don't have enough money to afford the basics. Forget about forgetting, it's even easier to remain ignorant, because I had NO idea about the Seriously- 2,200, 000 million hungry people. To put that in perspective- about 10% of our population. I'm not mistaken. I checked. This means that you will know someone, or know someone who knows someone, or may have even been 'someone' at one stage in your life. In a first world country, this is pretty unbelievable.

When I was sent these figures by RED Agency, I was a little taken aback. I genuinely thought the numbers couldn't be correct.

I was also really interested to hear about how the problem is being tackled by the work that Foodbank are doing. Before this media release came my way, I had fleetingly heard of them, but never really knew about their very cool concept. Foodbank collects donations from manufacturers, farmers and producers and distributes the product to accredited welfare agencies across Australia. Typically this is food that is perfectly good, but is excess and can't be sold so ends up as landfill. It is a non-denominational, national organisation, with distribution centres in six states and seven regional centres. This situation is a win win for everyone because the food isn't going to waste, and Foodbank come to pick up the donations so the producers are not left out of pocket through delivering large amounts of food.

Now, I don't want to stuff anymore statistics down your throat, I simply thought that perhaps this article might give you some 'food for thought.'

I feel pretty privileged to be a food blogger, (although I'm not getting paid) it means a number of things.
1) I have a disposable income and access to money to pay for food when I eat out;
2) I have access to good food and am never left hungry;
3) I know about nutrition and I can afford to buy healthy food.

In my lifetime I've spent so much time thinking, make that obsessing, about the next meal that I would make, what restaurants I would eat at - criticising things that weren't cooked perfectly. I had, shamefully, forgotten about the people who couldn't afford to eat at all. Sure, I had made some feeble attempts at being charitable i.e. making meals for sick people and delivering them, leaving some hot healthy meals next to the sleeping homeless man that lived just across the road from me, but I have never really done anything on a larger scale. And I'd really like to. I'm not sure how I am going to become involved, be it with Foodbank or one of the charities they supply, but I am going to do something. Most importantly, I'm not going to forget about the people, the truly hungry people.

Has there ever been a time in your life when you were really, truly hungry?


4 fabulous comments:

Malik Hamilton said...

We never went hungry but I have vivid memories of water and electricity being shut off because my mother couldn't afford to pay the bills even though she worked two or three jobs. Now that I'm a parent I think back and can see how my mom was making conscience choices to feed our family and go without heat or water or light. It's sad that there are families that don't even have enough that they have those choices. They're going without heat, lights, AND food.

Leah said...

Great post, I think we often forget that this is an issue here in our own backyard. I have been truly hungry before - when I was in primary school I had a medical condition that meant I couldn't really eat - I lived on tomato soup and was quite malnourished. However, I was lucky - once the issue was resolved I had access to as much food as I could ever want or need.

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

A great post GG and definite food for thought (no pun intended). I was very fortunate to not go hungry but it is something for which I do realise I am very fortunate in this respect.

Ladybird said...

No, I have never starved. I have been hungry after an extended duration of illness which prevented me from eating as I normally would, but no, not starving.

Yes, being a food blogger means we are some of the lucky few in the world, and it's good to remember it...

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