It was a good weekend for food in St. Marys. A sell-out crowd enjoyed filet mignon and chocolate truffles at the hospital foundation’s fundraising gala Saturday night at the Pyramid Centre, while the line-ups were as long as ever the next morning at the volunteer firefighters’ fundraising breakfast (though I doubt many of Saturday’s revelers made it to Sunday’s breakfast!).
And it’s just going to get better. Many will enjoy a wonderful meal this Sunday for Mother’s Day, and then it’s the long weekend: barbecues will be out in full force, and the St. Marys Farmers’ Market opens for another delicious season. Food isn’t just a physical necessity: it’s a way to celebrate, commemorate, and this just may be what truly separates us from the animals.
Imagine, then, the worry that comes when there may not be enough food for your family. We are so privileged as a society that, when we picture people going hungry, it’s inevitably an extreme image. There are the forlorn, wide-eyed children in Africa waiting for a meager scoop of rice, or the homeless man devouring a sandwich or Christmas dinner at some inner-city shelter.
But there’s a new face of hunger, and it might hit closer to home than you think. While — sadly — there will always be people who truly go without food, you’re more likely these days to meet someone who doesn’t get quite enough. They might be eating less so their children can have more. They might have turned vegetarian to save a few more dollars at the grocery store. They might have become a whiz in the kitchen to avoid buying more expensive convenience foods.
In other words, the new face of hunger is less easy to pick out of a crowd. Or maybe you know all too well what that face looks like, because you see it when you look in the mirror. It’s nothing to feel ashamed about; you’re unfortunately in plentiful company. Last year, almost 900,000 people were assisted each month by a food bank in Canada — a figure essentially unchanged since 2010, and almost a third more than the years prior to the 2008 recession. (This statistic comes from Food Banks Canada, and is the only tangible means to measure hunger.)
Food is often the first item on the chopping block when it comes to trimming budgets. Unlike rent or utilities, it’s a malleable necessity: you can always eat less, or buy cheaper goods (at least, to a point until you can afford none).
Similarly, there is no single demographic for food bank users, although it’s a sad truth that 38 per cent of people served by food banks are youth and children, and that slightly more than half of users receive social assistance. The ever-increasing cost of food, coupled with a cut-throat job market, means that times are tighter than they ever were, even for the gainfully employed.
This week is Hunger Awareness Week. I’m guessing it was no coincidence that it coincides with Mother’s Day. There is no greater maternal instinct than to feed and nourish our family, both immediate and global. Canada Food Banks is proposing that people try going without today, Wednesday, May 8, so they can feel pangs of sympathy alongside those of hunger (many Parliamentarians are taking this challenge public).
But it goes beyond just one day. The fundamental problem of hunger in a First World nation is multi-faceted and will require years of resolution. But in the short term, you can help. Food banks, including St. Marys’ own Salvation Army, are forever falling short of the demand. If you’re at a loss for what to buy Mom for Mother’s Day, perhaps a donation to our local food bank might fit the bill. Mothers teach us to be thankful for the bounty you do have, and to be generous with your concern for others. Everyone deserves a satisfied appetite.
Legumes are a great way to stretch any grocery budget, and with good reason. They are a great source of fibre, protein and a variety of vitamins that keep you feeling full for a long time. You can stock up on cans when they’re on sale, or buy them dry and cook them to save even more. Here’s a basic salad that’s great for get-togethers and lunches during the workweek.
Mediterranean Three-bean salad
1 can white kidney beans
1 can red kidney beans
1 can chick peas
1/2 an onion, minced
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced (approx. 3 tbsp.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Drain and thoroughly rinse kidney beans and chick peas. Combine all ingredients in a serving bowl and mix thoroughly. Serves eight as a side.