Day 1 on four dollars of food per day

Woke up and wondered how many grams of coffee I consume in one cup. I got out my partner’s baking scale: about 24 grams. If five pounds of fair trade, freshly roasted Colombian coffee costs $46 (via a network of friends, roasters and producers), that means each cup, not counting water and electricity and the infrastructure of our kitchen, costs about 48 cents.

That’s more than 10 percent of my food allowance for today. But, let’s say I’m addicted to coffee (I’m in denial about that) and need it. So, I put the water on and start hand-grinding the beans.

This is my first day of a new “diet.” As I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to try and live off of $4 worth of food per person per day, for just under a week (6 days).

At the end of the week I’ll join a small panel of others who did a similar thing, and talk about our experiences, urban hunger and global distribution of food.

The event is announced on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank website here.

We’ll meet at the downtown public library on Sunday October 16, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. I encourage any Geez readers, and others, of course, to come down and bring the toughest questions you have.

As I start, I’ve got a few questions.

How to count staples?
First, if I’m counting $4 of food per day, how do count fresh veggies. For example, we have lots of squash, carrots and beets from the garden we share with the family farm. I’m assuming I shouldn’t eat them — because low-income and hungry folks don’t have gardens. But that’s a quick and easy stereotype. I wonder if it’s true.

And if I do count the tomatoes and apples, etc. that we have from the land, do we set grocery-store dollar figures on them? I’ll figure out a system.

Need more info
Second, I’d like more information on the figure of spending $4 on food per day? Who gets that amount; how do they get by, what else to they spend money on, etc.? I’m looking into this.

Just charity or seeds of structural change?
Third, I’d like to know what the organizers hope to achieve with this event. De we simply want to raise awareness and get more people to give money and time to food justice groups and charities, such as the sponsors of the event, Oxfam, Winnipeg Harvest, or Canadian Foodgrains Bank?

This would help a few folks in the immediate future, but what about deeper change? I wonder what the plans are for that. An action like this could raise the public’s awareness and make them more receptive to structural change (like some of the proposals put forth by folks at Occupy Wall Street, see first list of demands here ).

How do rich help the poor, can they?
Fourth, I’m wondering how this event will differ from the one a week or two ago were CEOs slept on the street to bring attention to homelessness in Winnipeg?

As I think about that event now, it’s kind of corny: rich and powerful people pose as those in solidarity with those most desperate among us. Aren’t the rich and powerful the ones that erect and sustain an oppressive system (e.g., keep wages low, outsource jobs, use machines when people sit idle, seek profit and tax loopholes/benefits before justice and broader distribution of wealth)?

I’m suspicioius of top-down change. Which means as long as I identify with and benefit from the spoils of the upper classes, I don’t think I’ll have the answers to the questions of hunger, homelessness, poverty and other forms of discrimination and oppression. “Meaningful solidarity” and a listening posture is all I can hope for at this point.

I want to be part of an action that doesn’t just share surplus food from the middle and upper classes; I want to be part of a society where no one is hungry. How does this my eating $4 worth of food per day fit with that goal?

Have ideas or comments? Let me know.

Aiden Enns,
Editor, Geez magazine

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  1. I thank you for your efforts here. It’s good to see people try out the life of a poor person, and then speek out. I just ask, will you be heard any more then a real poor person, who can also add his or her story on why poverty took over that person’s life for a while or for ever seemingly.

    I’ve spoken too numerous people only to recieve no reply over the years.
    I plan to come listen to one of you. I also have more input to offer if I can get to one of you.

    The only action of this type I don’t like is when some one follows poor people and neglects to realize the whole story of what the poor person realy lives through, which happende some years ago here, with political types, who surely missed the mark. How ever, those who take this type of challenge and then speak out, the support is there from me. Perhaps I can some day join you in putting out the message, as well as usual causes, or my cause, whichis the all too common plague of workplace bullying that took my career and continues to harm me in odd jobs, that are becoming rare and harder to get and take for my age.

    I can tell you, some of us on welfare don’t get all the money for food, as not all our rent is paid by rent portion of welfare, and the Food Bank that is very helpful in it’s own effort is just not a place to do your grocerie shopping, it’s only good for emergencies as will be for a large flood or other disaster that can be helped to an end in weeks or months. It’s a real shame, shame of the state that Canada holds people poor when all our poverty related problems can be dealt with, namingly by correcting things such as bullying, and having more of us paying into the pot that would be better used for those who can not work or can not do at least 40 hoursof work per week.

    For now, I do thank you all for your part in this, and I will be looking out for results and further updates on your efforts should you carry on this or simmilar endevors.

    J. Cooper

    Julien Cooper Wpg October 13th, 2011 1:37pm

  2. I live in Winnipeg and walked past that CEO sleepover thing that was at the foot of the Canada Trust building in the morning. It seems to me that it was stunt and nothing more. Not too many people know about it and the news here paid little attention to it.

    I volunteer at a mission occasionally and I know where the homeless go at night and how little they have and the wide variety of challenges that they face (everything from hygiene, cold, illness and mental problems). This sleepover thing was insulting to the homeless in my opinion. The CEO’s had:

    + police presence all night
    + warmth and light
    + friends nearby and their families knew where they were.
    + medical attention and a food tent were only meters away from them

    Granted, the homeless were welcome to the food and medical attention as well on this one evening – but these people who needed don’t have the same access to media that the rest of us do so I wonder how many came forward that night?

    rob October 24th, 2011 8:52am

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