Last week I lived on £1 a day to raise awareness of extreme poverty. So did 3,000 other people in the UK and over 15,000 worldwide. The £1 a day has to cover all of your food and drink for five days.
Within the rules of the challenge it was forbidden to accept any freebies from friends or colleagues, and you can't use anything that was already in your cupboard unless you account for it in your budget. This week was quite a shock for me and all week I couldn't help thinking about how I would cope if it was my permanent reality.
Friday was the end of my Live Below the Line Challenge and I couldn't wait for the clock to tick over to midnight. When it finally struck 12:00 my sense of relief was huge. During the week, as documented in this blog, I struggled with not being able to concentrate, feeling shaky, not looking forward to food itself but rather the feeling of being full and a real lack of energy coupled with irritability.
I had to do this for five days only. My sense of relief is a feeling that 1.4 billion people around the world who live in extreme poverty, may never get to experience. More shocking still is the fact that one third of the planet's entire food crop is lost or wasted every year - more than enough to feed those who live below the line, day in and day out, globally.
Midnight Friday came and went, but the politics of food still featured in my weekend. On Saturday, as I was home for the weekend, I went to the Fare Share South West - follow them on Twitter - event on College Green in Bristol. Fare Share is a national UK charity supporting communities in the UK to relieve food poverty and they held a community event to feed the five thousand on food that would have otherwise been wasted.
It was a great event, the weather was as gorgeous as the food and they served over 5,000 portions of food that day! It is utterly immoral and shameful that we in the UK waste so much food when there are people going to bed hungry at night. Food waste is also has an impact on the environment, efforts by organisations like Fare Share minimises surplus food going to landfill and helps to reduce CO2 emissions. Labour's Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, has tabled a Food Waste Bill that will be going through parliament over the coming months.
The bill aims to place a legal obligation on large supermarkets and food manufacturers to donate a proportion of their surplus food for redistribution to charities, which redistribute it to individuals in food poverty. This is a really welcome, practical step to protect people from food poverty during the current economic climate in the UK.
More must be done globally to stop so much of our precious food going to waste. Problems with infrastructure and planning are as much to blame as the shame of food being wilfully thrown away. During Live Below the Line week it was reported that in India, millions of tonnes of wheat was being left to rot whilst millions of the country's children starve because there was no-where to store the bumper harvest. This is just one example of the extent of the problem. Last week the UN's food agency released a new study showing that one-third of the world's food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted each year.
The report argues that in the global north, reducing reliance on retailers such as big supermarkets could help cut food waste and it encourages retailers and charities to work together, to distribute unsold but edible food that would otherwise go to waste, just like the work that Fare Share do. For countries in the global south, the UN argue that investment in infrastructure and transportation is key to limiting food waste coupled with investment in food storage, processing and packaging solutions. The most frustrating thing about these huge challenges is that it is clear that there is enough food and money in the world to ensure that we do not see people starving to death or dying of preventable diseases, but we must see more political will and urgency to take action from our government and from other world leaders.
I am extremely grateful to my friends and colleagues for putting up with me this week and for their generous sponsorship and support, so far I have raised nearly £500, a small contribution to the whopping £325,000 (including Gift Aid) raised by UK poverty campaigners who did the Live Below the Line challenge.
You can still sponsor me here.
Follow Gemma Tumelty on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gemmatumelty