Daniel Blake’s Britain
There’s a scene in the film I, Daniel Blake where Katie, one of the main characters, visits a food bank. Having gone without food more than once so that her children can eat, Katie feels faint. In total desperation she grabs a tin of fruit from the shelf and, turning her back, wolfs down its contents. Her shame at being spotted, and the kindness of the volunteers who then try to help her, absolutely broke my heart.
It’s well known that I’ll cry at almost anything. But this film broke my heart for a whole other reason.
Because I, Daniel Blake isn’t fiction. I’ve seen this exact scene play out in real life, more than once. I’ve had to help someone into a chair when they almost fainted. I’ve had someone burst into tears when I handed them a plate of roast potatoes at FoodCycle. I’ll never forget sitting in the food bank distribution centre where I volunteered, listening to a single father tell me how crap he felt for not being able to give his kids a nice Christmas. Think I’m exaggerating? Spend some time helping out at your local food bank, and you’ll soon see – there are thousands of Katies in every city and every town.
Lots of things have changed since last year’s Breadline Challenge. FoodCycle Cambridge has a new Saturday venue, Wesley Methodist Church. We’ve got a new bunch of hub leaders, and have started cooking in the north of the city.
One thing that hasn’t changed though? Food poverty.
It’s still here – and it’s getting worse, not better. Just two weeks ago, the Trussell Trust published figures that showed in the six months between April and the end of September their 420 distribution centres handed out 519,000 parcels. 519,000. Child poverty continues to bite even in outwardly affluent cities like Cambridge, with the Evening News reporting that as many as 33% of children in Kings Hedges and 31% in East Chesterton are living below the poverty line.
This is where initiatives like the Breadline Challenge can help. No, it’s not going to make a dent in such a deep-seated, complex problem. It’s not going to have any effect on the job market, benefits system, wage levels or cost of living. It’s just a week, so what difference can it make? Well, it can make people more aware for a start. It can make people have those conversations about what needs to be done. And it can raise money for FoodCycle hubs across the UK, to help them reach out to even more people who’d otherwise go without.
What’s the Breadline Challenge about then?
FoodCycle HQ has set each of its volunteers a challenge, to live on £2.50 a day for a week between 21 and 27 November – the price of your morning takeaway coffee. That’s a total of £17.50 for the week. We’ll be collecting sponsorship, and all money raised will go to support the fantastic work that FoodCycle hubs across the country do, tackling food poverty and building community.
It’s all in the planning…
When I did the challenge last year, I talked a lot about The Tyranny of the List. Planning isn’t any easier second time around. I sat down earlier this morning with pen, paper and a fair amount of confidence that I knew what I was doing. I even proudly boasted to a friend that I was even going to have marmite this year. One hour, lots of searching on My Supermarket and many, MANY crossings-out later I had my list.
A list that didn’t feature marmite.
Of course, that’s one of the first lessons of the Breadline Challenge – how much food poverty can limit your choices. Standing at the checkout this afternoon, I listened as a very lovely ASDA employee told me how upsetting he finds it when people go to pay only to realise that they’ve not got enough despite all their planning, and have to put something back. It happens daily, and he never knows what to say or do. Maybe there’s not anything to say.
As with last year, coffee is out (way too expensive) but tea bags are in (I’ve upgraded this year). I’ve treated myself to a pack of frozen berries, but now I’m a bit worried that there’s no fresh fruit on this year’s list. I mean, no bananas? Really?! I’ve only got one potato, and I’m not sure it’s going to be enough. They didn’t have the cheese I’d budgeted for, so I had to buy something slightly more expensive, and cross off the pumpkin seeds I’d added as a healthy snack in a fit of optimism.
I also picked the worst time of day to shop – half an hour before closing, when the supermarket was busy and crowded. It was noisy, hot and stressful and I didn’t have time to hunt for bargains (although I did spot a pot of crab meat for 50p in the reduced section, executing a neat three point turn with my trolley to swipe it before anyone else noticed it). Hunting for bargains (often across several shops), even though time-consuming, can make the difference for many people between having enough and going without.
45 minutes later I’d made it to the end of a very long queue, feeling very pleased with myself that my shopping had come in under budget at £16.86. I had a balanced shopping trolley with lots of veg, lentils and eggs for protein and even two types of cheese. That is, until I got home and realised I forgot to buy the eggs. Damn, there goes my 64p contingency…
So, tomorrow morning it begins – wish me luck, and don’t forget to check back throughout the week for updates on how the challenge is going, and to hear from our guest bloggers. You can also sponsor the Cambridge FoodCycle team here – anything you give really will make a huge difference to people who need our support. Thank you.
- Mushrooms (Growers Choice, 300g) – £1.00
- Tea bags (Asda Everyday, 80) – £1.00
- Smart price long grain rice (1 kg) – 45p
- Wholegrain porridge oats (500g) – 59p
- Spring onions – 45p
- Red pepper – 50p
- Self-raising flour (500g) – 40p
- Baking potato (380g) – 38p
- Tomato purée – 40p
- Tinned mandarin pieces (Smart Price) – 35p
- Chickpeas (Good and Balanced, 400g) – 35p
- Red lentils (Good and Balanced, 500g) – 75p
- Lemon – 25p
- Garlic – 20p
- Tinned tomatoes (Smart Price, 2 400g tins) – 50p
- Natural yoghurt (Smart Price, 500g) – 45p
- Chicken stock cubes – 59p
- Crab meat (100g) – reduced to 50p
- Frozen Black Forest mix – £2.00
- French blue cheese (Smart Price, 125g) – 90p
- Mozzarella (Smart Price) – 43p
- Broccoli (360g) – 50p
- Sweetcorn (Smart Price) – 35p
- Frozen spinach (1.3 kg) – £1.50
- Spaghetti (SmartPrice) – 20p
- Semi skimmed milk (2 pints) – 75p
- Brown onions – 34p (I’m using half a 1 kg pack)
- Prymat sweet paprika (20g) – 30p
- Cannellini beans (Good and Balanced, 300g) – 40p
Total cost = £16.28 (leaving me 85p for 6 eggs and 37p left over)
Written by Alex, Communications & Outreach Coordinator