I grew up in a house full of food. Food, glorious food, everywhere. Spilling out of the cupboards, stacked up in the freezer, in the laundry basket (as a vegetable over-flow – admittedly mostly at Christmas) and even out in the shed when the fridge was full.
On Mondays I’d come home from school to a mouth-watering smell of baking and a kitchen, full of no less than 48 cakes. Yes, that’s right: 48. Every surface covered in cake. A child’s dream. Actually, still a dream.
The thing is my mum was a proper certified cordon-bleu chef. Poached salmon coated in cucumbers laid out on silver platters, lemon soufflé, a hundred mini chocolate mousses, roulade, pavlova with strawberries and cream, coronation chicken, perfectly-peaked meringues (a feat I have never managed to achieve). You name your 80s’ buffet selection item and it was cooked in our kitchen. On many a night, somewhat distressed, I watched the food being promenaded out of the house and off to some party on the river, while my dad and I waited for fish fingers to cook in the oven.
But I was never hard done by for long. Frequently carted back into the house in tupperware containers were, The Leftovers. Sometimes more than we could handle. I think it’s fair to say I was a well-fed child.
In fact hunger and I fell out a long time ago – probably when I was about six and tucking into homemade Millionaire’s shortbread. We’re just not compatible. The love of food, cooking, baking and entertaining has stuck with me long into my adulthood. As you can imagine, then, it was with some trepidation that I took up the Live Below the Line challenge last year.
Five whole days with only £5 to spend on food. Five whole days of porridge made with water; lentils, lentils, lentils and occasionally for a treat, a boiled egg. At one particularly disheartening moment, I attempted to buy a banana only to realise that at 27p, it was way out of my daily budget.
It made me realise how much I eat, how I use food to pick me up on a bad day and ultimately that I have never been starving – how could I have been when I grew up in a house like the one in Hansel and Gretel? My eyes were opened to the privilege of my upbringing and the abundance of food which I still eat. Even now, when I’m in the pub looking at a glass of wine and a packet of crisps, I think to myself: I could have bought a week’s worth of food for the price of that.
The facts are clear. Two million children die of malnutrition every year and 1.4 billion people will go to bed hungry tonight. That’s 1.4 billion people living on less than £1 a day, not just for their food, but for everything – housing, electricity, education, travel and health. In the light of this to reduce what I eat for five days isn’t a burden at all.
From 29 April – 3 May, the threads team will again take up the Live Below the Line challenge to temporarily align ourselves with the millions of people living in abject poverty who have no choice over their daily menu. We acknowledge this is a symbolic act but hope that through our moanings and literal groanings on social media, out and about, and at work, we will do something to teach ourselves and show others what it’s like to have to go without.
There is enough food to go round. God created an incredible world, rich in natural resources; this gift to us brings with it a huge responsibility. The prophet Isaiah calls on us to share our food “with everyone who is hungry”. The Bible makes it startlingly clear that indifference to the cause is not an option. In this year when 150 organisations have come together through the IF campaign to say we’ve had enough of global hunger and believe there is a better way for the whole world to get fed, why not join us and take up the challenge?
And if I were you, I’d start stocking up on lentils and Tesco value bread.
Image by Blake Johnson via Wikimedia Commons.