The truth is that 25,000 people will die today of hunger, and 1 billion will go to bed hungry tonight.
“The problem [hunger] was so immense that it was like background noise, like the wallpaper of Africa. What good is education, or medicine if the children and people are hungry? Our best laid lesson plans go to waste if our children are so hungry or weak that they can’t pay attention. The medicine to combat AIDS or HIV–it advises us to take it with food, or with a full glass of water.” –Roger Thurow, former journalist for the Wall Street Journal who was so impacted by what he saw that he left his job and now works to end world hunger
Today is Day 2 of Willow Creek’s challenge to eat like the Bottom Billion: on $1 or 2.5 cups of food a day. Since the point of this blog is for me to tell the truth about what I’m going through and thinking, I will not try to make my thoughts sound better than they are, though they do sound terribly selfish. (Which they are.)
Yesterday was not as terrible as I expected. Obviously I ate far tastier, nutritious food than just the white rice and beans, since I had Mexican rice (white rice, chicken stock, spices, some veggies), refried beans, and black beans. The hunger pains came only an hour after I’d eaten, but they quietly subsided when the growls weren’t addressed. At dinner, it took a lot of self restraint for me to finish my rice and beans and not reach for more, or reach for the rice pilaf and shrimp that my mom had made. I tried to eat the latest dinner that I could so that I wouldn’t have to go to bed hungry. But after I ate dinner, those hunger pains reared their ugly heads and were reawakened. I was hungrier than I had been before dinner. But again, after a series of angry roars, they slipped back into the shadows. And so I went to bed not hungry, but not satisfied.
This morning, I woke up, ate my oatmeal before going to work. The jobs I do are physical in nature. Since I ate my oatmeal, I have been hungry. I slip into the back office to take a spoonful of rice and beans. The taste is fine, I actually like eating my black beans and rice. To me, it tastes good. But I see now that it’s the portion that really gets to you. I knew it in my head, 2 cups of food a day (mindful that’s a generous portion) is not a lot. Especially after I measured it out yesterday. But today, I keep looking at my bowl of white rice and black beans, again, measured out one cup of each into the bowl that I’ll be eating from all day. And every time I sneak into the back room to steal my spoonful of food, I wonder how I’m going to make this last all day.
I couldn’t do it. By noon a pervasive throbbing headache had begun and by around 3pm I was alternating between feeling hungry and nauseous at the same time. After an hour of suffering through it, I asked my boss for a Tylenol, and even with that I left about half an hour early. It just occurs to me now, over a day later as I write this retroactively, that I wouldn’t have had access to Tylenol if I was really living like the bottom billions. And again…how even on this challenge everything about my life is so vastly different than theirs. What I’m doing doesn’t even begin to compare to what they go through every day. And I still don’t know what to do about it.
I seriously considered not eating dinner, just because I didn’t want to spend the night clutching a bucket. That’s when I realized that again, if I really lived like my brothers and sisters, would I really have the choice to not eat? Would I know when my next meal would come?
I was so grateful that I arrived home in one piece that day. I had to lie down after work, and then this is where I broke down. On Day 2!!! 😦 We’re allowed to add a little veggies and a chicken nugget sized piece of meat to our meals, and I hadn’t intended to use that idea at all. But while I was sitting down to dinner, my mom was worried about me. She’s been trying to get me to eat more the past couple of days–veggies, rice pilaf, meat, just because she’s worried about what I’m doing to myself–how weak I’ll feel etc. So that evening I added a sixth of a cup of stewed/boiled carrots, onions, and lentils to my bowl, along with a chicken nugget sized piece of chicken breast. I couldn’t even last 2 days. And all I really wanted was some chicken noodle soup to ease my churning stomach.
A chicken nugget and veggies are a luxury. And here we live in a country where (Man vs. Food) one person can eat 5+ pounds of food in one meal. When that much food could literally feed a family. I kid you not he took on this one and ate all but one slider in half an hour!
At my job on Monday, we serviced a fish tank in a wealthy family’s home. And this little girl is the wealthiest little girl that I actually know. She’s an only child, and her live in nanny was telling me that when she (the nanny) first started taking care of her, the little girl only ate 5 things. She would refuse any other food that was put in front of her. Since then, she’s opened up to other foods, but this is what she had for breakfast and lunch that day:
Cocoa Puffs for breakfast
Chocolate cake for morning snack
Pizza and cucumbers for lunch
Balanced diet it is not. lol But this is the picture of a little girl (she’s thin) who can indulge herself in only a select number of foods that she actually enjoys because her parents can afford it. Picky eaters is a common syndrome amongst American children. I was probably one of them. And most of our parents (not all, even in a nation as wealthy as America) can afford to continue to buy foods that we’ll eat, or continue to buy new and different food to get us to try new things. We live in a country where people risk their lives on extremely dangerous fishing boats in order to bring us crab meat and lobster that we don’t really need, we just want.
We can afford variety. We can afford 5 food groups. We talk so much about trying to make sure our kids get a healthy, balanced, diet of everything they need, and we feed them formula because breastfeeding is too inconvenient, or too uncomfortable. We feed them Pediasure in 5 different flavors to make sure that our kids will like at least one of them and get the vitamins they need since they don’t eat their veggies. We hide servings of vegetables in canned Chef Boyardee, in spaghetti sauce, in V8, and in apple juice, because our kids (and even our adults) don’t get enough veggies. What does that even mean, “we don’t get enough veggies” when people around the world rarely have any??
A daily menu of rice and beans it is not.