When people asked me about the challenge this time last week, I said things like “It won’t be easy, but I’m sure I’ll make it” or “It’s not the quantity I’m worried about, it’s the quality.” Truth be told, deep down I didn’t think I’d have that much trouble making my food last.
In fact, there were parts that I was secretly looking forward to. I used to beg by mom for Kraft Dinner at lunchtime. One summer, I ate PB sandwiches almost everyday. And instant oatmeal? I kinda like it.
But when I think back to my childhood, every KD meal had a salad beside it. Each PB sandwich had an apple. Even instant oatmeal was nutrient-ed up with sliced fruit and nuts. And that, I now realize, makes all the difference.
So rewind to Thursday evening at dinnertime. I was in Stratford after a day of travel and meetings that had been plagued with a lack of focus and a grumbling stomach. I’d gone from constipation one day to diarrhea the next — my stomach’s way of thanking me for the carb-only diet I’d been providing. And when I sat down to a tupperware dinner of KD, it was all I could do to stop myself from both crying and vomiting on the spot.
The point had been driven home. This simply is not the kind of food that anyone should have to live off of. And so I quit.
I’ve learned a lot through this experience — about trying to get enough vitamins and nutrients; about the isolation that comes from not being able to share food with others; about the myriad of physical issues that can arise from just a few days without fresh veggies. But Thursday’s dinner surfaced one more important issue.
When I told my host, the wonderful Ruth Klahsen from Monforte Dairy, that I needed “real food” she knew just where to take me. A quick look at the menu for Down The Street Restaurant put me at ease. Within minutes I was biting into an organic arugula-walnut-beet-feta salad (the feta was made by Ruth herself!) with roasted red pepper soup to come. As the nutrients hit my blood stream, I started thinking about cost. This meal alone cost more than the week’s hamper that I had bought on Sunday. This seemed completely outrageous. But then I thought back to the conversations I’d had all day — about the economic reality of the farmers that provided most of the food on my plate. Many of them are living in poverty too, as industrial agriculture soars and the price of food falls.
This week has reinforced the complexity of these issues. It’s reminded me that poverty exists in our fields as well as our cities. It has helped me crack open my eyes – if just a bit – to the realities of hunger and mal-nourishment. It has filled my mind with a flurry of thoughts about the broken nature of our food system.
But more than all that, it has instilled in me the need to not let this campaign end here. And I hope you feel the same way too.
This week I’ll be back to the usual 52 Projects posts … stay tuned to hear about a weekend of soap making! And thanks for all the thoughts, comments and support about the Do The Math campaign!