Note from a stranger to hunger…

Very cheap piece of salmon (2,50€) fed two last night. With mayo and potatoes - way outside poverty budget.

Very cheap piece of salmon (2,50€) fed two last night. With mayo and potatoes – way outside poverty budget.

In concert with a large percentage of the viewing public, I watched a BBC programme on the prevalence of real hunger, through poverty, in working people in the United Kingdom today. I had just eaten a simple dinner and, if truth be known, had chosen to watch this programme because “there was nothing else on”. It became clear to me, as the programme unfolded, that although I knew the definition of the word “hunger”, I had clearly never experienced it. The flaws in the programme were obvious as I watched well covered, wealthy chefs look askance at empty fridges,  stare in disbelief at cupboards, bare but for a packet of soup and a tin of budget beans, and be totally blown away by the confession of one of their “subjects”, that she only had 28p in her bank account. People like them have no concept of poverty: people like me have no concept of poverty, but I thought I was grasping the mind bending reality of starving people all around us in our celebrated Olympic, Shard, Wimbledon society. Then I ran headlong into ” A Girl Called Jack”  . Reading her blog made me share her rage at the ludicrous site of unbelievably wealthy “personalities” performing a tasting of a “budget banquet”. Blue Peter visits Auschwitz. You have to read what Jack Monroe has to say as it is life changing. Believe me.

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About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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32 Responses to Note from a stranger to hunger…

  1. A Girl Called Jack is an amazing read. I’m so glad you wrote about it here.

  2. So what’s the solution to this problem, Roger? Will your eating less put food into the mouths of starving African children? No. What will the people who have watched the BBC program do about poverty in their country? Nothing? Something? My husband has devoted his and his family’s whole lives to the alleviation of poverty and it still exists.

    • Might be good for us to start in our own countries and work outwards…I don’t know.The theory was that the UK had a Welfare STate, the envy of the world. Government has to re prioritise, but it’s unlikely to happen. If there was an anti hunger lobby as strong as the NRA, perhaps there’d be change.

      • Nice stab at the NRA, Roger 🙂 I have to tell you, from experience, that poverty in developed countries compared to underdeveloped countries is the difference between feeling hungry and dropping dead on the streets from exposure and hunger. Way too real Roger.

      • I hear you, Rosemary, but Africa and the leafy suburbs of London are poles apart.It’s taking a lot to persuade people in power that people are too poor to eat. Waiting for them to fall down dead in the street might be a bridge too far:)

  3. cecilia says:

    I have been hungry. And I have been in the position of having a houseful of children and only a few dollars in my ragged purse and only half way to the next welfare payment, I was so thin my doctor threatened to put me in hospital if i did not start eating and I laughed.The kids eat first, I said. I would have slapped a chef who came into the house to gasp at my fridge, however if he promised us a few meals maybe I would have let him in, if he paid us I would have opened the door myself. It is a very real precipice between just holding on, just, to falling off and tumbling into the streets, No-one came along and saved us, the kids and I worked our way out of it very slowly, giving each other a hand up as we went..it took years, and now look at us, holidaying in the rockies! Wonderful. Though i need to say that we can get along very well with Way Way less food than what we eat. Three meals a day is not really that critical at all. Anyway.. have a lovely slim day..I am off to visit Jack.. c

  4. If only there was a lobby like the NRA to banish hunger. Right now the GOP wants to cut food stamps when they are badly needed. Government’s motto should be first do no harm. For us little people we start local. The extra food in my garden goes to the Community Kitchen. As part of the PTA at school we sponsor food baskets for the poor families at the school. And the school takes donations and does up backpacks every Friday. Does it cure it? No, but if everyone who was capable did a bit then it would make a big difference. I would love to see programs round here where we teach people to grow food, even if it is in pots. And show people how healthy cooking doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s an overwhelming problem but we have to start somewhere.

  5. We live in a world where not one person should be hungry. It frustrates me that so many are. My Rotary club meets in an affluent community. Yet, we volunteer and donate to a program that provides groceries to needy families. If more people would think about it and do just a little, we could wipe out this sort of thing.

  6. I’m a proponent of national efforts first. That’s where I can make the biggest impact. Last year I attended a meal preparation event, and we packaged over 275,000 instant meals for the county. At the end, we were told it would feed the indigent for about a month. That’s for a county with a population of 75,000 and not every is going hungry. In a basic sense, 3.3 million meals would be needed to prevent a county from going hungry per year. There are 3,143 county and county equivalents in this country. The national level is surely in the billions.

    When I was in college, one of my jobs (I had 2 with a small side job) was working in a grocery store. They did what they could with their out of date product, as the unsold breads would go to a homeless shelter. However, the rest of the expired “sell by” product would be trashed. All sorts of meats and dairy would be removed and pitched. Their reason was they didn’t want to be sued for distributing “questionable” product. I knew those groceries last longer than the anticipated expiration date, but the American legal system has made it so easy to get trounced the fear stops it dead in its tracks.

    There is no silver bullet here. There is no cure all. I do what I can, but can’t do everything. It takes effort from many people to move forward, that includes the impoverished. I’ve sacrificed not having a family for financial stability. That’s serious emotional pain I’ve lived with for decades. It’s the stiff upper lip for some, and people are all too willing to leave that understanding beyond their grasp.

    • I think the last paragraph says a lot. People do tend to live on their “rights” without the “responsibility”. Just because someone wants a big family doesn’t mean that they can feed, care for and educate a big family. More power to you.

  7. Mad Dog says:

    I’ve looked into food banks in the UK and I’ve been amazed by what a fantastic job they do:
    http://www.trusselltrust.org/mission-and-vision
    I’m not crazy about the idea of donating tinned or long-life food, but it will keep if necessary and is ready when needed.
    There’s also a daily Harikrishna lunch van in my area which provides free hot food to all comers. I do appreciate however, that I live in London and these kinds of services are not available throughout the country.

  8. I was hungry at an early(ish) age. My parents were overseas and I was at 6th form college living in their house in the UK. They fell out. My allowance stopped. The bus to college was free, the course was free, the electricity and phone bills were paid but food was meant to come from an allowance that didn’t arrive, I lived for a month on readybrek, powdered milk and home made jam, which is what was in the house at the timeAnd on having sunday lunch with my mother’s friends. And then my mum came back to the UK and things got sort of better in a sort of not better way because their marriage was very fragile.

    It was a great lesson in survival and being hungry at 17 probably did me no harm at all! But, I’d hate to be there with small kids of my own or when I was a little more vulnerable.

    • I had a slightly similar experience at the same periond of my life, although mine was self induced and not caused by my family.At that age one feels it will work out and there’s hope. The situation becomes much more dangerous for the working single mother with a child, or the working family with children. Thanks for finding the site and commenting..excellent.

  9. Eha says:

    So agree with what is being said and fully appreciated the article, but the people who should understand and could make a difference are not reading this post or any other similar, are they? Yes, I remember way back: too many bombs and mouldy bread and weeds for soup, and counting every penny when our ship first docked in Australia and parents giving the hungry child a second helping of real budget food saying they were not hungry . . . . at least we had not been to Auschwitz: it’s all relative isn’t it . . .

  10. ChgoJohn says:

    I know I’ve been blessed with a comfortable home and upbringing. I’ve volunteered at a food pantry for people with serious illnesses, many of whom could not afford their medication as well as food. Some brought their children with them to the pantry. How, in my country, we can afford to pay $2 billion to elect a President and let just 1 child, let alone the estimated 17 million, go to bed hungry is beyond me.

    • It’s very hard to make sense of any of it. I was just reading in the BBC news that the UK lost more soldiers to suicide than enemy fire in Afghanistan last year. A moment later I was reading of the ancient sporting events in Italy,like the Palio, where teams batter each other very violently as a relief from the recurring human urge to kill each other. Said slightly tongue in cheek, I’m sure. The problem is that war, aggression and sport seem to be the main driving forces of our society.

  11. It’s the parallels that have me apopleptic. People who are thriftily creating 28p spaghetti carbonara whilst the great cathedral malls tout designer gear and doughnuts. Who is buying all this stuff? Because it’s not me, and it’s not anyone I know.

  12. Tandy says:

    Poverty exists in my part of the world in an undeniable fashion. Teaching people to grow their own and feeding schemes are the norm. Good post!

  13. Pingback: Hunger | The Story of Writing

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