Feeding the Family for $7.50: What I Learned

As Lent began, Billy Kangas — who is an advocate for the hungry — gave us 5 creative ideas for fasting.

As Lent draws to a close, allow me to share something written by a reader whose family felt called to try one of Billy’s challenging ideas, and who came away from the experience with a raised conscience, new awareness, and a determination to do more for hungry people everywhere.

She prefers to remain anonymous — so her deeds are seen only in secret by God. And we are in Holy Week; what challenge might you be willing to accept?

Our family wanted to do something about hunger but we didn’t know what. I read a Patheos blog post by Billy Kangas, suggesting “5 Creative Fasting Ideas”, and was particularly inspired by this:

You might also consider taking the extreme poverty fast. There are roughly a billion people in the world who live in “extreme poverty,” defined as those who live on less than $1.25 a day. You might try to create a food budget with $1.25 a day for a few days to feel a bit of what extreme poverty might look like.

We talked about it and the kids were keen; I was concerned about doing this with kids, but our oldest kept coming back to it. They wanted the minimalist budget shared by many families around the world.

I agreed because I thought I could still make them feel full.

Even making adjustments for the younger ones, this was no fun. The worst part was not the food — it was hunger-induced snappiness. Defenses were down and and people were grumpy because they were hungry. And we were actually only a tiny bit hungry. There was mostly enough to eat, we were hungry for things we didn’t have.

We took it seriously, but it was a game, where we got to decide all the rules about when it started and ended. It was an exercise we chose, not the life we woke up to. “X billion people live on $1.25 a day . . .” One day, $7.50 to feed our family. For the game, I had: transportation, internet cost analysis, education, and significant variety at my disposal. The chances are, my unknown impoverished sisters, mothering their own children, begin with less of that, and the game they’re playing doesn’t end when the sun comes up.

Among other things, we had 1/4 cup of peanut butter. To have split the peanut butter equally among us would not have caused suffering, but I did not touch it. I couldn’t. Nor the applesauce we had to share.

I wanted to think my kids were full at school; that things were usual and that we were learning compassion. I was fine to have them bored, but I didn’t want them hungry. How much my unknown sisters must ache at this. How much they must forgo, day after week after month after year, only to see their children still not thriving. Not playing, because they are too hungry for play.

How could they? Meat and all its valuable proteins they could give their children in nibbles weekly or never. If available, the cost of fruits and vegetables (the fresher the better, the more colours the better, 4 – 6 servings a day please) would have to be weighed against the desire to help kids feel full. We managed eight servings of fruits and vegetables for six people. (Canada’s food guide suggests 38 servings for our particular family – we usually get about 30.) If we were to try this again, I would trade in a few eggs for more vegetables. We might make half of 30, but we’d be trading in protein to get it.

It is a difficult balance: more veggies might make one feel fuller, but proteins help sustain that feeling longer.

I cannot imagine the emotional toll it takes to not give your children what they need. I don’t know how mothers who are not eating enough themselves can have heads clear enough to find creative solutions, or if they are even available without outside help.

I don’t have a cause I’m working for; I’m not an advocate for any interest — at least not yet. But we who have so much continue with with business as usual any longer. Pray with me. Ache with me. Wonder with me as you are able. And may God show us how to feed our brothers and sisters who are hungry.

Signed,
A Mom in Canada

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    At my local Winco, $3.75 buys 25 packs of Ramen. Add a can of tuna and three cans of cheap corn to that, and you have soup for a family of 6 for a day.

    It isn’t nutritious and it won’t do you any good long term. It will cause malnutrition to eat that way no matter what you do. But it is possible to be full on that.


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