Day 3 Dwindling Resources

For people who live like this week-in and week-out, I can only imagine the stress involved in endlessly fretting over making it until the next hamper.

May 9, 2012 | | Blogs | Community | Hunger Awareness Week

I suspect I have it easier than my Food Box Challenge colleagues. Each of them is doing this challenge on their own, while surrounded by families or house mates who are still happily noshing to their heart’s content. Well, maybe not entirely happily. I hope there’s some guilt involved.

Maybe I caught my wife Brandy at a weak moment, like just after her fifth computer-related ‘how-do-I’ question of the day for example, but she agreed to participate in the Food Box Challenge along with me. That means we got to double the food amounts and actually, it looks as though we’ll have some left over at the end of the week.

We didn’t double everything. There’s no way we could go through two bags of rice, two packages of pasta, or two containers of peanut butter, so we only got one of each. We also thought it would be cheating to double the specialty items from the pantry – margarine, vinegar and the like, so we’re keeping that to the five allotted for one person as well.

Where it really made a difference, though, was with the eight dollars of “your choice” items we were each allowed. The grocery bill for our two-person household is virtually always more than a hundred dollars a week. Yet with only sixteen dollars, we were able to get meat, some vegetables, even an 88 cent box of cookies. That would have been impossible with only eight dollars, because every cent would have been required for ‘must-haves’ like milk and bread.

Even with that double allotment, at the mid-point in the week our little pile of food is rapidly dwindling. More than half the bread and milk is gone, the canned goods are significantly diminished, a good chuck of the pasta is no more. Of course, for us there’s light at the end of the tunnel – two more days and it’s over. For people who live like this week-in and week-out, I can only imagine the stress involved in endlessly fretting over making it until the next hamper. For those with children, it must be absolutely gut-wrenching.

It’s not simply a question of having enough, either. What do you do when everything except the pasta is gone? Eat plain macaroni three times a day? Feed your child nothing but kidney beans? Good luck with that. I suspect there comes a point where people choose to go hungry, just because they can’t face another plate of the same bland meal they’ve been eating for days.

Then there are those who don’t even have that luxury. If you’re homeless or living in your car, you have no place to cook the food in the first place. If you don’t know how to cook, or have a disability, a bag of raw rice can easily be too big a hill to climb.

Our groceries at the start of the week

Our meagre groceries at the start of the week, seen here, are disappearing fast.

The Food Box Challenge is all about raising awareness. Caledon Community Services has set a target of 5,000 visits to the daily blog all participants are posting on the CCS Food Box Challenge website. Please take a moment and give it a look.

About the Author More by Jeff Rollings

Jeff Rollings is a freelance writer living in Caledon.



  1. Hi Jeff and Brandy,

    I volunteered for four years at the Lighthouse soup kitchen here in town, and made quite a few friends there. Without it, many people would have to just do without. The food bank only gets them so far. We had people coming in and that meal was the only one they would have all day. What’s worse is for people who are celiac and have gluten issues. Cheap things given by the food bank are off their list (pasta, bread, oatmeal, etc.). As for starches, rice is pretty much it. My hat is off to you both for making others aware of what they have, and what others don’t.

    Janet Dimond from Orangeville on May 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Jeff. And Brandy.
    My eyebrows keep going up with each detail you add. Things I have never had to think about. A lasting jolt, though, came with your imagining what it must be like to be in this situation “endlessly”. I think we can all endure difficulty, even extreme difficulty, if there is light at the end of the tunnel. But contemplating the notion that things may never change is just so chilling. Maybe ‘hope’ is as important to the people who use food banks as the food itself.

    Ken Weber from Caledon on May 10, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply

  3. I agree, Bethany. One of my Food Box Challenge colleagues used the example of pancakes. It’s much cheaper on a per-serving basis to make them from scratch, rather than buying a box of mix. But by the time you’ve bought all the separate ingredients you’ve spent way more than the cost of the mix. So you either buy the mix, or you end up eating nothing but pancakes for meal after meal, because that’s all you’ve got.

    Also, today an actual food bank client has posted an entry on the CCS Food Box Challenge page. Among other things, she tells the story of bursting into tears when she found one of her dozen eggs got broken on the way home. Her whole post is heartbreaking.

    Jeff Rollings on May 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Reply

  4. Looking at your photo, Jeff, I realize again how blessed I am to have access and the means to buy “what I want, when I want it”. I am astonished at how leafy and vibrantly coloured my shopping is comparatively, and how that would probably be considered a luxury by most. As well, I am sad to think that some great ‘sale items’ that I can buy when I see them (say a large bag of rice, or a great deal on detergent, etc.) would be inaccessible to those on a tight weekly budget, and they would have to buy smaller measurements at a higher price.

    Bethany Lee from Orangeville, ON on May 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Reply

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