One of my work colleagues has been living on £1 a day for all food and drink for 5 days. She is taking part in 'Live Below the Line' a global challenge to show solidarity with people in extreme poverty, raise money to eliminate global poverty and experience what life is like for people on very low incomes.
She had to plan how to spend her £5 very carefully checking what she could and could not afford to buy. She didn't allow herself to use her store cupboard except for salt and spices. Normally she eats a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, these were immediately unaffordable, instead she bought a bag of diced frozen vegetables. She found that tinned potatoes were a cheap alternative to fresh. She also bought a bag of cheap teabags but milk was too expensive so she drank it black. She has found it an eye opening experience and very boring so is looking forward to return to normal after 5 days.
The Trussell Trust Newcastle West End food bank is now the largest in the country, since 2009 demand has increased 8,000% so it now distributes 4 tons of food every week. Everyone receiving food has been referred by a care professional such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, Citizens Advice Bureau staff, welfare officers, the police and probation officers who issue people in crisis a food bank voucher. Clients bring their voucher to the food bank where it can be exchanged for three days supply of emergency food. Food parcels have been designed by dieticians to provide recipients with nutritionally balanced food.
It is very hard to imagine why people would not prioritise buying food. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty, chaired by Frank Field found that the answer is simple. If you have limited income you will pay your rent first because otherwise you will be evicted. You will pay for gas and electricity otherwise they will be cut off. If your children are entitled to free school meals you know they will get one meal a day during the school day, families Children North East know will prepare one meal a day at teatime. During the school holidays they prioritise food for the children and the parents live on leftovers or go without.