“Sharing is part of my faith. Sharing takes us through hard times.”
“It hurts to see my children ask for food,” says Emily Mbithuka from Kenya. She grows and stores maize to make sure she can feed the youngest of the family. As the supply runs low, she, her husband and the older ones skip meals.
Emily is hungry for change – are you? asks CAFOD’s Take it! Share it! Multiply it!
CAFOD is inviting schools and parishes to write messages and prayers for a world free from hunger and then extend the invitation to family and friends. We’re calling on the Prime Minister to help rebalance the food system to enable small scale farmers, like Emily, to make a decent living from the food they grow.
Yesterday I set off, for the local shop, with £1.96p in my pocket having put 4p aside for tap water, our only beverage for the week. I say that as if it’s a hardship rather than the elixir of life. I take too much for granted.
My plan was to head for the bargain trolley of discounted, almost out of date, items. I was hoping to find cheap bread, then check out the cereal, fresh veg and pasta to work out what came in under budget.
As I walked to the village, I thought about my post war childhood and happy times spent running to the corner shop for rations. Clutching a shopping list wrapped around the money. I can remember times when the money was short and I had to decide what to leave and what to take. We often ran short of money between pay days but never went hungry. Mum told us that when an unexpected visitor called on them she would often have to run out and leave her best coat in the pawn shop to get money for ham and bread then retrieve the coat whenever the money could be found.
I thought of vulnerable people in the UK today, living in poverty and in fear of running out of money to pay rising food and energy costs. Some say they have to decide each day whether to eat a meal or heat the room and can’t afford to do both in winter.
In the shop, I struck lucky and found a pack of six wraps reduced from £1.45 to 48p. That will be enough bread for a few days. The smallest bag of own- brand porridge was 1Kg and would have left me unable to get any veg. I always make porridge with water and thought this would be a good filler.
We’ve ruled out ‘luxury’ items like butter, oil and even milk. I chose a 57p tin of sardines in tomato sauce to have with the bread. When I saw a discounted pack of ready prepared, winter roast veg, reduced from £1.50 to 75p, I swapped the sardines for cheaper tinned tomatoes, saving me 20p. I had to get a scrap of paper to keep doing calculations….48p + 37p + 75p …. by my reckoning £160p in total. That’s when I decided to head for the sweet counter and splash out 25p for a tiny bar of Fairtrade chocolate. The idea being, to melt it and spread it on a portion of the bread. Breakfast. A little of what you fancy…
At the checkout I told the checkout assistant about trying to manage on our £2 daily budget and explained why. She said it was a good idea and that it broke her heart to see how much fresh food had to be thrown away at the end of each day. I asked if any of it could be passed on to those in need. She said she didn’t think it could but imagined it would probably be very edible if taken from the bins.
Last week I was invited to a school to talk to the sixth form about the Hungry for Change campaign and help them explore why people are hungry when there is enough food for everyone. We did the food round of the CAFOD quiz. Question 5 asked, ‘Who said hunger was a tragedy driven by selfish and profit-driven economic models? Like me, a lot picked out Bono, the lead singer of U2, but it was Pope Benedict XVI.
The students were invited to write messages on paper fish to place on a hunger cloth before sending them to CAFOD, for David Cameron, calling on governments to use their power to make sure things change for the better. They heard about people who had lived through long periods of hunger, like Emily and her family, Dorcas and Makuu striving to recover from drought, conflict and fluctuating food prices. The way food is grown, sold and shared out is certainly not working for the world’s poorest people.
One student wrote: ‘Why can’t all the perfectly good food discarded by shops be collected up and flown to countries where people are in desperate need of food?’
On my way home from the shops I was wondering if it would be possible to offer food to people willing to sign a disclaimer should anything happen if they ate goods that were minutes past their sell-by-date. Is the fear of litigation making us throw away precious food? Would giving away this food mean loss of profits? I must pluck up courage to speak to the store manager about how they try to reduce the amount of food they have to discard. I must try harder to make sure I don’t have to take food from my fridge straight to the bin.
Another question in the CAFOD quiz asks how much food we throw away in the UK each year. And, the shocking answer is: enough to fill 200,000 buses. I’ve contributed to that waste.
It’s a mad world where some fear overeating, or worry about how to pass on surplus food, whilst others like Emily and her family, live with the deep pain and fear of gnawing hunger.
I have just had a look at the inspiring CAFOD Lenten calendar and today it invites us to
‘Have a simple lunch together and put money saved to your Hungry for Change collection.
So, I am going to do just that and prepare a meal of tinned tomatoes seasoned with home grown chilli peppers, shallots and a sprig of fresh rosemary and use it as a topping on a portion of the delicious flat bread. I will pray and give thanks for all who have toiled to produce the tomatoes, wheat and cocoa beans.
I will sign off today with a verse from a CAFOD prayer card:
‘This is the time to think about our family, large and scattered now, but at one table still. Say the blessing, Lord, and break the bread. For you give it to us, so that all may eat.”