Friday, May 2, 2014

Frugal Foodie on a British Pound: The Challenge Ahead

Wait, what?  I thought this was the last day of the challenge! And it is. However, the point of living below the line for a week is not to "get through it" and be done, forget about poverty, hunger, and the like. When it comes down to it, this is just the starting point. There are still over one billion people living in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 per day and nearly 850 million people who go to bed "hungry". While these numbers have slowly, steadily decreased in the past couple of decades, challenges ahead will try the global community's ingenuity and commitment to social justice.

One in particular, and a topic you might notices crops up a lot around here, is how climate change is going to affect the malnourished and impoverished. In Oxfam UK's Hot and Hungry, it is apparent that climatic shifts can disrupt even the best laid plans. Extreme weather events (e.g. cyclones, droughts), as well as incremental increases in temperature and altered rainfall patterns, threaten current practices of agricultural production, not to mention causing indirect impacts on food prices, delivery systems, etc. It will be necessary for people to adapt accordingly, but we are not at all prepared for what is ahead. And the authors chalk up these shortcomings to - what else? - poverty, inequality, and political failing.

That is what is so amazing about this week; a heightened awareness and desire to act around these issues. The US contingent has raised nearly $300,000, and in the UK it has just topped £450,000 (multiply by 1.7 for USD). Now if the dedication and enthusiasm of 20,000 peope participating in LBL this year were sustained, if acting in the face of poverty and hunger were a normal and concerted everyday affair, how would this world be a different place?

A piece of the answer (and a vital one, at that) came in the form of another New York Times article. It looked at the plight of poor families in the US - how many creature comforts and technological amenities are at their fingertips (smart phones being one of those mentioned). But the cost of basic services, such as education, healthcare, and food, have soared out of the readily accessible range. This tells me that what we need is not cheaper goods; we need a shift in attitudes around the rights of all people. And, as this article very much illustrates, we need improved policy - taken together, a change in attitudes of our policy makers. I hope that living below is helping to send the message of this importance.

Finally, on to food and reflection from LBL 2014. Unlike years past, I found much more creativity in the food at my disposal this year (though definitely don't want to see barley for a while). A can of tomatoes and bag of peanuts go a long way to making a pretty exciting and filling curry. That baby purple cabbage made a lovely, if slightly less complex version of my super-quick soup. And I even concocted some semblance of a dessert by topping mashed sweet potato with an oaty-apple mixture! So, while I am still sluggish and desperately in want of green vegetables, the week has been another meaningful (and hopefully effectual) experience. Until next year!

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