Check your Privilege

“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.

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Food Run

The Big Half marathon 10/03/2019

I remember running much of this route when I ran London marathon in 2017. During that race, running half a marathon was put to the back of my mind whilst I focused on when the race would really start; mile 20.

I remember still smiling through the rain when I ran my first London race, the British 10K in the summer of 2012; this morning it was high speed winds.

I remember my sister warning that I’d be sick as I tucked into a buffet breakfast ahead of Florence marathon. I wasn’t sick and nor was I today after eating a veggie burger bap enroute to the start line; not that I recommend either of these fuelling practices!

I remember when today’s finish time would have filled me with frustration and disappointment. Today I was high as a kite with what seems to be me turning a corner from an iron deficiency.

I remember so many highs and lows of running from over the years. Going back to school sports days; I was the reigning 100 metre champion in my year I’ll have you know! What I don’t remember is ever going hungry. I don’t mean the self induced hunger to drop a dress size in a week. Or on the commute home when dinner is so near yet still too far. Nor do I mean the many times that I’ve exclaimed I’m starving and demanded to be fed immediately.

I mean the hunger of not knowing when, or if, you’ll next eat. Having to make a choice between food and another essential. Having limited choices of the foods that you eat. I’ve never known the physical pain that comes with hunger. I’ve never known weight loss as a window to my deprivation.

It’s the remembering how fortunate that I am to run and have food choices which led me to run The Big Half marathon for food waste/food poverty charity The Felix Project. And what a fantastic day it was. One that I won’t forget in a hurry!

Check out their link below and see how you can get involved:-

http://thefelixproject.org

You can also find me on social media – follow me on:-
www.facebook.com/reductionraider1
www.instagram.com/reduction_raider1

Karma

Karma: the principle of retributive justice determining a person’s state of life and the state of his or her reincarnations as the effect of past deeds. (www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.collinsdictionary.com/amp/english/karma)

Karma: a Swedish startup founded in Stockholm, November 2016. The app connects surplus food from restaurants, cafes and grocery stores to consumers for a lower price. As a result, users eat great food for less and businesses receive an additional revenue stream — all while reducing food waste. (https://karma.life)

Karma: I receive £5 credit from the Karma app, I use £2.49 to collect Teriyaki Tofu served on sushi rice with kamameshi sauce, edamame, leeks and pickled radish from EatFirst for dinner; restaurant style, healthy gourmet meals which you heat in the microwave. On my way home, I unwittingly drive through the congestion zone and get stung for the £11.50 charge. Now the what actual Karma is this?!

I’m full of first world problems, I could list them daily; the steam room is currently out of action at my health club, my running times are not what they used to be, I forgot that I had cut price tomatoes and now they are mouldy. It’s astonishing that food waste has become such a first world problem; I don’t like that I’ll bin it, I don’t want to eat that twice I’ll bin it, the restaurant portions are too large let them bin it, we need to overstock sandwiches in the interest of custom, if they don’t sell we’ll bin them.

Have we lost sight that in third world countries people regularly die of starvation. 98% of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries (https://www.thp.org/knowledge-center/know-your-world-facts-about-hunger-poverty/)

We don’t even need to go that far afield, most of us would have walked past at least one person today who cannot afford to eat. Someone without the same choices as us. You see most of us are in a position to make informed choices daily as to how we spend our money, what we eat, what we invest in. Some of our decisions will inevitably be more ethical than others and our privilege influences than that.

By using the Karma app you choose to save money on a meal, you choose what you buy, you choose to reduce food waste. Businesses such as EatFirst choose to operate with a social consciousness, reduce landfill, whilst still generating a revenue. We all make choices as to what sort of world we want to live in.

Let me know what you choose from

http://karma.life

Tastes like Plastic

I started buying reduced, yellow sticker, food simply because it was so cheap. I was amazed by the savings; it would put me on such a high. I loved calculating how much it should have cost compared to what I’d paid. I’d be telling anyone who wanted to listen, who am I kidding, interested or not I’d talk incessantly about what I’d bought. As time went on I learnt more about food storage, hygiene, safety so the range of food I bought expanded. I became all the more experimental and confidant in the kitchen, until it got to the point where yellow stickers became the bulk of my food shop.

What I’ve gained has been far more valuable than money; cookery skills, independence, interest and greater enjoyment of food and being more socially aware. I began volunteering with the food waste charity The Felix Project, and whilst it’s not a charity I donate and collect surplus food on social media app Olio. Saving restaurant food from the bin using app Too Good to Go. I have volunteered with Contact the Elderly, who arrange monthly tea parties for the elderly, for almost 10 years, yet it’s only been in recent years that I have come to appreciate the symbolism and meaning of food. That it can communicate care, belonging, value.

I don’t know that I can honestly tell you that I’ve given food to someone who is street homeless or donated to a food bank before I shopped in this way. At the most I might have thought I’ll do it next time. The truth is I would have been too concerned with myself; what do I need to buy, how much will this cost me. Whilst I have become more mindful of those less fortunate, being charitable is never selfless, at the very least it allows us to feel good about ourselves.

A popular cause at the moment is reducing plastic and the rise of zero waste. I’ve started to make small changes; using a keep cup, although this only came after my niece witnessed me trying to reuse a shop bought take away coffee cup and the contents fall out of the bottom! I use cloth bags to do my shopping, but I can’t say that this was a regular occurrence until the 5p levy. I recycle food as well as plastic and make the effort to buy cruelty free products. I guess it’s had a domino effect; be it through education from public awareness campaigns, taxes being imposed or sharing on social media.

When I post my yellow sticker hauls, food saved from the bin, on Instagram I tag eat well for less, zero waste, sustainability; a lot of the buzz words at the moment. For the most part I have a really positive response on my account and it has become a place where we can share ideas, recipes, tips. From time to time, I am attacked for my buying of single use plastic i.e. a plastic box of grapes reduced to 50p. How can I justify buying so much plastic? I try and keep calm, avoid being defensive, and hold an open dialogue, although it feels ironic having a conversation about the impact of plastic on the environment via our mobile phones which are hazardous when they too reach landfill.

I don’t have the answers, I’m not sure that @devotion2daocean does either. What I do know is that I need to eat, we all do, the food that I’m buying is otherwise heading for landfill which produces methane and has negative effects on climate change, global warming, that a huge amount of energy and resources are used to produce this food, that the supermarkets make little, if any, profit from these mark downs. I know that food waste doesn’t sit right with me when there is not only a guy going hungry outside my local Tesco’s but starvation worldwide. I know that buying yellow stickers made me aware of how big a global issue food waste is, to incorporate good habits at home, to help others where I can, adopt a plant based diet. It’s not the only issue, and tackling it doesn’t come without compromising others. Neither does plastic; what good would come from food being binned so I can say I buy no plastic or I drive across town, emitting carbon dioxide, so I can shop at the new zero waste store? There is no single answer, which can come from one person, it’s raising the uncomfortable questions, the struggle for solutions which promotes change. We grow from discomfort and it’s all too comfortable a position to say I’m right and you are wrong. So let’s come together and open an uncomfortable discussion; I’ll bring the tea and biscuits, yellow sticker of course!