CAFOD supporter and retired teacher Anna Bourke lives in Derby with her husband Simon. For the next week, they’ll both be living on £1 a day, in solidarity with the world’s poorest people.
Dilemmas, dilemmas. We discussed how best to take on the £1 a day challenge, choosing to shop locally on foot and buy each day rather than take the week’s budget of £13.72p and drive to a big supermarket hunting for bulk- buy bargains.
There may be bargains to be had in town but £4.60 for the bus fare wouldn’t be cost effective. Would I do a 10 mile round trip on foot to spend £2? I have the luxury of local shops and can save my energy.
Before starting the challenge, we tried hard to use up the food in the fridge. Cereal and tinned goods have a good shelf life. We put leftover soup and bread in the freezer. Some things will keep for a week like apples, onions and opened pots of jam. What could we do with a very ripe Fairtrade banana, a small piece of goat’s cheese, an egg, half a lemon and 6 small mushrooms? Certainly not waste them. It felt like cheating to use them. We are going to buy them out of our daily budget.
Another dilemma happened by chance. Simon was invited to play golf. Knowing nothing of our £-a-day plans, his friend said there would be a bacon buttie waiting for him when he arrived to share a lift. Should he accept it, refuse it, pay for it or what? We talked about it and felt that accepting hospitality was important. A windfall gift. It reminded me of times as a child when the housekeeping ran out before pay day and you’d get an unexpected rebate of a few sixpences from the gas meter collection.
Yesterday, we savoured our basic meals of bread and tomatoes, and roast winter veg. At supper time, I hastily retrieved a slice of bread to save it for breakfast.
A typical Saturday for us would be sitting at the table for breakfast eating porridge topped with fruit and sweetened with honey or munching a bowl of exotic muesli with fresh milk.
Then a mug of fresh coffee and toast or biscuits. We might have a sandwich later and an evening meal with pudding of some kind.
This morning, we felt we were having to make do with bread and banana. Si had bread with tinned tomatoes and a few leftover mushrooms. Today we will eat rice and root veg and the same tomorrow. We were thinking about the impact on our digestive systems and what we were going without. So where is the hardship in all of this? Nowhere, for us. If I had to manage everyday and feed my children and grandchildren we would soon know the consequences.
Many millions of people live hand to mouth. When the harvest runs out or fails, times are very hard. The CAFOD food quiz asks “How much of their income do people in developing countries spend on food?” The stark reality is 70 per cent. Food is expensive, wages are very low and work may be an odd day here and there. This means there is precious little money to buy food with and next to nothing for everything else that is needed to live.
Rose and her family live in Kenya. Three years ago most of their animals died in the terrible drought. They did not have enough to eat and her baby Tabita nearly died. It was hard to raise money for school fees for her older children. So Rose works as a daily labourer and also collects bundles of wood to sell for fuel. She says, ‘we have to give children the best opportunities in life.’ Now that CAFOD is working with Rose, and her family, they have been able to buy some goats that can survive on little water and give nourishing milk for the family. They generate some income by selling the goat milk to buy essential things.
We know we will manage the week on the money we have. There are two of us so we will get by. We haven’t got to cover all of our living expenses and we have safe clean drinking water whereas over 700 million people don’t, and others may be too poor to buy it.
This challenge has made me think about the deep injustice of a world where food production is up but 1 in 8 still go hungry. Back in 1995 world leaders set a target to reduce the number of people who live with food insecurity by half (from about 9 hundred million to 4.5 hundred million) by 2015. Despite some improvements they are a long way off. Why?
The way that land is controlled, subsidies are paid, seed is sold, produce is bought and sold mitigates against the small farmer being able to enjoy food security and having to endure hunger and sickness. The food chain is driven by making profit rather than feeding everyone.
Drought and floods contribute to food insecurity but, with help in place to manage water systems, store food, and makes roads to transport produce to local markets, greater food security can be a reality. Things have to change and we have to make it happen.
Shopping with £2 has taken me much longer as I try to work out what I can afford and what I can’t. I avoided picking out individual potatoes or apples because there is nowhere for me to weigh it and I couldn’t calculate the cost. I didn’t want to pester the assistants. Usually we would push our trolley up and down the aisles thinking about what we’d like not what we need and not worrying too much about the price, certainly not adding up what we spend, then paying by credit card and rarely checking the receipt.
Having two adult children and family in the locality we’d probably add a few extra things and treats for the ‘just in case’ scenario being able to offer hospitality.
Students I talk to about CAFOD often ask ‘What difference will it make?’ I firmly believe that individuals standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, living in poverty, to champion a fairer food system will make a difference.
This is part of a CAFOD prayer by Fr Ignatius Ikunza, from the Hakimani Jesuit Centre, Kenya. It says far more eloquently what I feel but cannot express.
From the time of birth, we need each other; other human hands lifted us from the womb. We rely on others to feed us, protect us, teach us, and love us in to life.
Open our hearts to the needs of your innocent people suffering from the persistent burden of hunger and mobilise our spirits to respond to them.
Grant that inspired by the vision of human solidarity,
We may invest our material resources in bringing liberation to the despair of poverty
And returning hope to your children.
Please join us this Lent to raise funds for people who don’t have enough to eat and to take action to change the food system. We can make a difference.