One of the first times I really stopped to think about the reality of poverty and hunger in the UK was when I was given the cookbook ‘A Girl Called Jack’ by Jack Monroe. In this book, the author detailed their struggles with shopping and cooking for a family of two whilst on benefits, trying to pay the bills and search for a job. The recipes that followed were all tailored to a low budget.
A couple of years later, I saw I, Daniel Blake for the first time. This was a movie that gave a never before seen perspective to life on benefits in the UK, especially with shows such as ‘Undercover Benefits Cheats’ on the air. What I had seen deeply troubled me, as it made me realise how essential food banks are to our country.
I knew that I had to do what I could to help. Having heard about the 'Live Below the Line' challenge from various news articles and Twitter, I felt it was a good way to raise both money and awareness whilst also gaining a better understanding of the struggle first hand.
Porridge is something that definitely needs more than just water
When I began the challenge, I knew that my experience was certainly eased by me having a warm place to live and being able to distract myself from thoughts of food with work and days out. For me, the worst part of the whole meal plan was the porridge. When you can’t add simple things like milk or sugar to your weekly budget, things like porridge become dire and unexciting. Most meals, while they were filling and didn’t taste awful, were quite bland and not something to look forward to. My favorite meal was probably pasta with passata, as I found it to be quite filling, although it did always feel like something was missing as I couldn’t really add anything else to it.
I’m very glad loose sweet potatoes are so cheap
As someone who has admittedly indulged in meal/ingredient delivery services such as Gousto or Hello Fresh, I've been used to varied and flavourful meals. I also really enjoy baking but found it to be a luxury on a budget of £5 a week. There are so many snacks and drinks that, before, I would’ve considered part of my daily diet. I now realise that I had been taking these items for granted, as to many, they are seen as a massive luxury.
Veg fried rice would’ve been better if the veg wasn’t carrots and cabbage!
The way that food banks work is that donations of non-perishable food are made locally - you may be familiar with donation points in places such as the Co-op or Sainsbury’s. Volunteers will then sort these donations into emergency food packages. In order for people in need to access this food, they will be referred by care professionals such as health visitors, schools and social workers who will then issue them with a foodbank voucher. With this, they are given three days of emergency food. Volunteers are also on-hand to listen to those in need and direct them to relevant help. Between April last year and March of this year, The Trussell Trust provided 1,182,954 three day emergency food supplies. This is a number that is only increasing.
If you want to support the Trussell Trust in their work, donations of food, toiletries or your time to your local food bank are always welcome.
Isobel also has a JustGiving Page where she's aiming to raise funds to help support of The Trussell Trust!
Article Written by Isobel Nicholson - UCSU RAG Officer