Last week I took part in the Hunger Awareness event, through the House of Lazarus [HOL]. The goal was to spend five days sharing the experience of those who use the food Bank at HOL, with only$10 to spend and a box of groceries, supplied by HOL, valued around $40. Half a dozen eggs, a loaf of white bread, a bag of skim milk, three pork chops, soups, two cups of pudding, a can of fruit, pasta, some potatoes and carrots and of course some coffee, which was the worst coffee I have had in a long time. How hard could it be for five days? I could only use some basic things from my kitchen, salt and pepper, some butter etc.. Otherwise, I was to use only the food supplied.
My first day was a trial. I kept misjudging how much coffee to use. There were pouches of coffee, like the ones you find in hotel rooms. So I used some of my funds to purchase a coffee, two days in a row, which left me with $6. Then a friend suggested I buy a small bag of coffee, which I did, for less than six dollars, and that’s when my coffee machine broke down. By then, I had no money left to get me through until Saturday. As far as the food was concerned, I believed I could get by with what I had being given. However, I did go to bed hungry. No snacking food.
My first post on Facebook was early Monday morning, lamenting the coffee issue. Such a daily part of my life, until I hit that wall. However, my post did raise the awareness of a local coffee roaster, who has now decided to donate freshly roasted coffee to HOL on a weekly basis. Big thanks to Malina Dockendorff of Rideau Roastery in Kemptville. The same day that I was whining about coffee, she dropped off 5lbs to them. So, in fact, I did manage to bring an awareness to someone. Up until now, she has always donated to the food bank, but never considered that good coffee could make a difference in people’s lives. I never realised just how much I take that daily cup of coffee for granted.
By Wednesday, I was getting all kind of cravings. Pizza, chocolate, chips etc…but I knew this was temporary, so, hey, I can do it. I also realised things about myself, that I did not like. Such as how lucky I am, and spoiled, that at any time I can eat out, have friends in for supper, enjoy a lavish meal with them, and just how much I take all this for granted. But what if? I have not had to humble myself and go to the food bank over the years. Think about it, think if you had to go there and ask for help. And that’s exactly what happens. You have to fill out a form, stating your income, how many people depend on you, etc etc… a lot of this is to avoid people taking advantage of the system.
By Thursday, my mood changed. We had posted on Facebook and in the Times about the disappearance of cats in the community. By Thursday afternoon, the views for that one article were over 4,000, compared to my 400 views on the updates about the Hunger Awareness. I began to be discouraged: did people care more for cats than for people in need? But I also realised something important: what I was taking part in was not really sharing the experience of the Food Bank users. It was only a chance to bring awareness, to myself and as many others as possible, that the Food Banks exist, that they are needed by so many of our neighbours, and that we just don’t understand that.
I admit: I failed the challenge, I couldn’t give up my little luxuries, even for five days. I was ashamed, of course, but I also knew that the biggest luxury I had was the choice to stick with the challenge, or walk away. The people I was representing don’t have that luxury. The Hunger Awareness challenge was not a game, and it was not a big thing to take it on, whether I had succeeded or not. What it is meant to do, and did in my case, was to help me appreciate what I have, and the responsibility we all have to help where we can. The one who really came through was Malina and her coffee.