Reflections on the Breadline Challenge

Finally we’ve got to the last day of the 2016 Breadline Challenge – thank goodness.

I felt like I’d planned a lot better than last year, and was able to draw on some of those lessons.  I’d even saved some treats in the form of cheese for the weekend, which can be pretty grim if your budget restricts you from doing anything much.  I’ve also eaten pretty well today, but I’m still glad it’s (almost) over. Just like last year, I’m acutely aware how lucky I am that I can just go back to *normal* tomorrow morning and help myself to a steaming cup of that coffee I’ve been eyeing balefully all week. Not everyone’s that lucky, and it’s essential – even more so than last year, with food poverty figures on the rise again – that we keep this on the public and political agenda. Let’s keep the pressure up, keep telling these stories and keep doing what we can to help.

Breakfast: Menemen (51.2 p per portion)

Turkish eggs (menemen) today, made with the last egg that I’d been hoarding since Thursday and about a fifth of what was by now a rather shrivelled and sad looking red pepper. I found half a chilli left at the back of the fridge too, and half an onion which I sliced up and fried everything together, adding half a tin of tomatoes and letting it reduce for a bit.  Then you crack the egg into a nest in the middle and cook until it’s just set before drizzling over some yoghurt mixed with minced garlic (my last clove of the week). Absolutely delicious – like a shakshuka, basically.  The yoghurt really made it though. Definitely making this one again.

I skipped lunch because breakfast was so late it was basically brunch, and was pretty filling. Plus I knew dinner was going to more than make up for it.

Dinner: Two cheese scone base pizza with mushrooms and spinach (48.3p per half a pizza)

I’d made an extra one of these yesterday, ready to go into the oven for a quick dinner as I had tickets to a Cam Lit Fest event that I’d bought weeks before the challenge. This pizza is just gorgeous (I’ve had mad pizza envy since Thursday when I saw the one Beckie at FoodCycle Lewisham had made). And much quicker than making a proper pizza base – I just knocked up a batch of the yoghurt scone dough and then spread that with all the pizza toppings. 20 minutes in the oven and it’s ready with a lovely crispy base and lots of melted cheese. Cue the Homer Simpson drooling noises as I took it out of the oven.

So…was it worth it?

Absolutely. I’m not kidding that I’ve changed anything much.  But I do know that we’ve at least raised a bit of awareness – and that’s what’s needed.  And I’ve learned a huge amount – more probably than last year.  Here are my three main things I’ll be taking away from the challenge;

  1. My body really doesn’t like sugar. I basically ate none all week until Friday afternoon when I decided to splash 30p of my precious contingency on a snack ‘bought’ from our M&S food pick up. I thought long and hard about which to choose, and went for the flapjack because it had pumpkin seeds and dried fruit and I though it would be a good energy boost, right? Wrong. It was so sweet I had an almost immediate reaction, becoming quite hyper and then a bit queasy. I don’t eat that many sweet things usually, but the processed foods that I’d foregone for the week must have more sugar in than I thought. My body had adjusted to the lack of sugar over the week so that when I had quite a hit of it all in one go, the effect was really strong.  Time to start watching out for those hidden sugars.
  2. I really value having a bit of choice in what I eat. My income’s not that high but I can at least afford to buy organic if I want, meat from my local farm shop or try a couple of new cheeses.  If you’re living on the breadline, your choices are severely limited to say the least.
  3. Food = mood.  I’ve been pretty grumpy and downbeat for most of the week, and it’s taken a lot of effort to drag myself out of that grey gloom.  We all know about the impact that food can have on your mental health, but this week’s really brought it home to me.  Especially when you factor in the importance of eating together, which I talked about a bit yesterday.  Food is – or should be – a social thing, a pleasure rather than purely functional.


But what really makes it worthwhile…

We’ve raised a whopping £525 between us (actually £619.38 with Gift Aid), thanks to some amazingly generous donors. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. Every penny will go to help a charity we feel passionately about. I can’t explain it any better than this, from a guest that came to us recently via the food bank.

“It’s just nice to get such a warm welcome. We weren’t going to come because we didn’t really know what to expect, but it’s been brilliant – especially the food. And you’ve treated us like we matter for once.”

There’s still time to sponsor us online here (the fundraising page closes on Tuesday).

So, how about next year – fancy giving it a go? Get in touch!


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