Doing the math…
As we round out this campaign, I’ve reflected on the “scenarios” that we provided at the food bank as we registered as clients. Mark and I were going to the Food Bank because we “are expecting our first baby and I have had to take time off work due to complications with the pregnancy. We barely make ends meet.”
In fact, if you “do the math” – we don’t make ends meet.
Our income this month is $1,350 after taxes.
Our rent is $1,000 and we pay $175 in utilities. This month, we have $200 worth of medical expenses due to the complications with the pregnancy. And we only have one income. Using those figures, we have a shortfall of $25. We don’t have any money to spend on other necessities: Nothing for clothing (what if I need something for work, or for inclement weather?). Nothing for transit, not even a low income bus pass – How does my husband get to work? How do I get to my medical appointments? Nothing for household necessities that I didn’t get at the food bank (dishsoap, laundry detergent, soap, shampoo etc. I did get two rolls of toilet paper). Nothing to help me prepare for the baby. Nothing to set aside for an “emergency.”
So in reality, I wouldn’t be stretching my hamper for a week, I’d be trying to make it last all month.Even getting to the end of the week, I’m feeling exhausted with the meal preparation (and wracking my brain to figure out what to make that my husband and I will both like). Yes, I still have food, but it’s limited. For the rest of the month, I have odds and ends – things that don’t make meals like: 3 cans of tomato soup (my husband hates tomato soup, if only it was chicken noodle!); 2 packages of chicken Mr. Noodles. A package of whole wheat hamburger buns; three quarters of a carton of milk; Oreo cookies, chocolate, muffin mix, cake mix, pudding, jello, corn syrup, meal replacement drinks (6), 2 cans of tomatoes, 1 package of whole wheat pasta, tomato juice, 1 package of cereal, 1 sleeve soda crackers, taco shells and Shake n’ Bake, 2 cans of tuna, 2lbs potatoes, 5 cups of rice, 1 can of beans and 4 plantains (very, very ripe). I also have 2 packages of coleslaw (but one looks very slimy and inedible), 4 packages of nearly inedible mushrooms). 3/4 of a loaf of bread and 4 eggs. Lots of margarine.
I have a few leftovers in the fridge. Enough pasta for two small portions (tonight’s dinner). Half a can of tomato soup and some fried plantains.
I also have some of the basic staples of the house: four, sugar, salt, pepper, vinegar, ketchup (replaced one of my spices), garlic powder, oregano and oil – although I am quickly running low on oil.
One might argue this is still a lot of food. I can’t imagine eating just this for 3 more weeks. I can only begin to imagine how stressed and fatigued, even angry, I would feel. And as Naomi Klein mentioned in the “Do the Math” blog in April, there are no second chances – if you screw something up, you eat it anyway. (She also mentioned that a lot of the meals they prepared – and same could be said for our participants – require time and a fully equipped kitchen – large fridge, full stove instead of a hot plate etc).
Also, if I really was expecting my first child, I would be drinking more milk than I really am. I’d probably have a bigger appetite too.
If I was stretching this hamper as far as I possibly could, I’d be seeking out other options in the community, like meal programs, places I might get help with clothing, transit passes etc. Then again, I’d need transit tickets just to get to a meal program, or the DI clothing store, social services etc. I would also feel isolated. No potlucks, no dinner guests. No shopping or movies with friends.
I’d probably be heading back to the CIFB on transit next month too – with my suitcases to lug home the next hamper (and remember, I’m pregnant.)