“What do you think”? I asked the work bestie expectedly, after I’d finished reading him ‘My week of spending £1-a-day on food’ article, in the September issue of Be Kind magazine www.bekindmagazine.com
“It’s good, style over content” he replied. What a back handed compliment if ever I’d heard one ha ha; if he weren’t my work bestie, I’d give him a back hand! “I just mean you are privileged enough to eat for £1 a day”; he continued. Andy went on to point out that I’m employed, which not only means that I have a regular wage but that I can raid the office fridge for anything going spare, food that has been forgotten about. I have friends, family who will invite me over for dinner, sub me if need be, offer surplus foods; including him of course who supplies me with his allotment goodies. He went on to say that shopping for reduced price foods, utilising what is going spare goes a way to addressing food waste, but my reality is different to those who are without friends, family, income, having to rely on state benefits, food banks, handouts.
Andy’s words kept playing on my mind, probably because I knew that he was right. I am in a privileged position and shop, eat in the way that I do out of choice, not necessity. I’ve not had to worry about where my next meal is coming from, I’ve not known what it means to truly feel hunger. Recently, whilst hanging around the bakery aisle, waiting to nab a yellow sticker birthday cake for my mum, I mentioned to a fellow raider that I work as a civil servant. He remarked how many more people he was coming across waiting on reductions who were in relatively successful, well paid careers. “We all need to eat and we all want to save money” I told him, which is true but he was hinting at a social class divide that I’d perhaps not paid much attention to.
The mere fact that I drive and have a car, has a huge impact on my accessibility to food. The luxury of being able to drive to the store as and when I want to check out bargains, the ability to collect food from food sharing app Olio in my local area, nearby work. I’ve not had to rely on another financially or otherwise, to eat. I make the decisions as to what, how and when I eat. I remember offering an apple to a homeless woman who politely declined it as she had missing teeth. I’ve always been able to take dental care, and my diet for granted. I don’t even recall having my wisdom tooth removed causing much of a barrier to my eating!
According to FareShare, 8.4 million people in the UK are struggling to afford to eat. This is equivalent to the entire population of London https://fareshare.org.uk
The biggest food struggle that I’m having today is finding a vegan eatery in Finsbury Park to lunch with a friend!
The same friend told me of a TV programme a while ago on homelessness. She was laughing at how a passer-by had offered a homeless man a box of mushrooms “I mean what’s he going to do with them” she asked with exasperation. Having a kitchen, regular supply of gas, electricity, the utilities to prepare, cook our own food are luxuries that many of us take for granted. The ability to cook for ourselves, understand food, diet, nutrition, to even be able to spend the time contemplating such issues.
There is a saying that privilege is invisible to those who have it, which is why we all need an Andy to point it out to us every now again. If we are unable to check our privilege, count our blessings, express gratitude how can we empathise with those less fortunate. How will we stop to take note of who is standing next to us at the checkout, or sat in a doorway begging as we walk by. If we are unable to appreciate how valuable a commodity food is then why would we refrain ourselves from binning it. If we do not recognise our blessings, comfort, security, and only pay attention to our struggles, then it becomes all to easy vilify those who aspire to have the same. If we cannot see when we occupy an elevated platform how will we know to extend a helping hand to those beneath it.
There are some privileges in life which are fixed; gender, race, academic history, our ancestors. Others can change in any given circumstances. Our jobs, income, relationships, accommodation, health, mobility. And we will then seek help from those more fortunate than us, let us be privileged enough not to lose sight of that.