Practical food matters: The heart

This is the story of Simon, age 9, one of Richmond’s many children living in poverty.

He’d like to go to Playland with the other kids, but he knows that his family can’t afford it. His mom will tell him that what little money they have needs to go towards food and rent. They’re a month behind on their rent even though she works two jobs. Sometimes, there isn’t even any food in the house. Hunger is a constant companion. Simon knows that his mum will skip meals or give him extra at dinner times.

How would you feel if you hadn’t eaten today? What about if you didn’t know when or what your next meal is going to be? What is it like knowing you can’t afford to buy for yourself or your family?

A few weeks ago, in the first part of this series, I provided a list of resources for people interested in learning about individual and community food issues. This week’s article shifts the focus from the “head” to the “heart.” Rarely do we take the time to empathize and see things from different perspectives. Equally as rare, is taking the time to reflect and self-examine our own personal choices and ways of thinking. The “heart” provides the drive which stimulates and motivates us to attain specific goals.

With this in mind, there are a number of excellent opportunities for people living in Richmond to experience the reality of people struggling to meet their food needs. Volunteering is an excellent way to build understanding while giving back to the local community. The Richmond Food Bank has four distributions during the week both in central and east Richmond. Another great space to help out is through the community meals, interspersed across Richmond.

Richmond has a rich history of farming and food self-reliance as seen in the wide variety of fruit trees throughout residential properties. Richmond Food Security Society coordinates fruit gleaning of these trees and donates the produce to the Richmond Food Bank. It’s a great way to meet people and find productive ways to prevent food from ending up in the landfill.  As an added bonus, giving time helps to get people socializing and can build work skills too.

In our region, the 100 mile diet was established by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon.  This is one of the many food challenges that one can experience in their day to day lives. Consider trying this with your family or with a group of friends. Recently, high profile individuals took on a food poverty challenge, attempting to live off of $26 for one week.  There is also the 48 hour fast challenge where youth would raise funds for global poverty charities. Others have made pacts or efforts to take on a vegetarian or vegan diet once a week.

At the end of the day, it’s really about humanizing the experience of vulnerable people. These are people who, for whatever reasons, face a harder life. A reproachful or judgemental stance does little to uplift our fellow citizens. Rather, we should listen, really listen and take the time to see someone not as ‘other’ but as someone worthy of respect and dignity.

Part two of a three-part series.

Colin Dring is with Richmond Food Security Society. If you want to contribute and learn more about its activities, visit www.richmondfoodsecurity.org

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