Readers Speak Back – Len Senater – Live Below The Line

I’ve been honoured by the stories, comments and challenges my friends and readers have been sharing with me about what I’m doing with Live Below The Line.

Live Below The Line - 5 days on a $1.75 food and drink budget.

One specific comment from Len Senater from The Dep really resonated with me:

I worry about having talented, knowledgeable, confident cooks tackling the #livebelow challenge. Their skill and resourcefulness may actually make things seem less dire than they really are.

Thing are much worse for those unfamiliar and intimidated by whole, unprocessed ingredients (which are usually the best value for $), who lack the skills, equipment or time to get the most mileage out of them.

I still think it is a worthwhile experiment, both to raise awareness and as a reminder of how we can all eat better for less – specifically by making more food from scratch. But we need to keep in mind that the nutritional health of our poorest citizens is undermined by the growing chasm between people and their kitchens, intentionally facilitated by and to the benefit of corporate food processors.

Len is right. The real-life challenges for the people living on $1.75 per day, or even $5 per day, are NOT reflected in what you are seeing in my blog posts.  My experience for these 5 days is not real life. It is a challenge, a game, a demonstration, an education, an experience, an awareness building exercise and a fundraiser.

I am doing my best give you a glimpse of my personal experience living without enough money to buy food, let alone to buy healthy food. It was no game. I’m astounded by the intensity of emotions this “game” is bringing to the surface. I’m trying to share those as well to help us all understand what it does to someone emotionally. What it did to me.

However, as Len points out I am atypical. Working with a tiny budget I can produce edible and filling meals. I know how to buy and forage and stretch a dollar. And I have a good foundation of food knowledge which lets me make healthier choices with what little money I have to work with.

Hunger is a deeper systemic issue in our world, our country and our community.  My posts about pancakes, while deeply engaging I’m sure, may raise some funds but are not going to fix the underlying issues in our society, create a sustainable level of food security for everyone or educate and empower people to break through poverty.

These foundations speak to what we need to address as a society:

  • poverty
  • education and
  • food security

If you have thoughts on this and I know many of you do, I would love to hear them and share them publicly.   Please add them to the discussion in the comments below.

Thanks to Len Senater from The Depanneur for his thoughtful and pointed comments. Len’s comment has been shared from Facebook with his permission so that it could be highlighted in a more public forum than my personal Facebook stream.  And while Len didn’t ask me to mention this, The Depanneur does a Pay What You Can after 7:30pm for their Wednesday-night dinners, incorporating organic veg provided by Fresh City Farms (until they sell out).

Live Below The Line - 5 days on a $1.75 food and drink budget.

Note: this post is part of my Live Below The Line series where I will be on a $1.75 food & drink budget from April 29th-May 3rd.
This is a game for me but a serious reality for 1.4 billion people in our world today.  Help support me by donating, or supporting Second Harvest and Daily Bread Food Bank.  

If you want to know more about what I’m involved in, you can read my disclosure statement here.

Alexa Clark

Alexa is a digital marketer and author with over 20 years in digital & interactive communications in the food and tech industries. Alexa's CheapEats Restaurant Guides, for both Toronto & Ottawa, were Canadian best sellers. She is a recognized authority on social media and has been named one of Canada's 20 Leading Women in Social Media.

7 thoughts on “Readers Speak Back – Len Senater – Live Below The Line

  • May 1, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    This is one of the reasons teaching food literacy in schools is so important.

    • May 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      Andrea TooleExcellent point “food literacy” is much much more than just cooking.  I would have been very happy to have learned more than how to make a lemon meringue pie in Home Ec.

      • May 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm

        AlexaClark Andrea Toole You should talk to my friend David K about food literacy in schools.

  • May 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    My sister used to teach kitchen skills. I think that course got shut down/edged out for other things viewed as necessities.
    I think Home Economics courses started to get thrown out in the mid-seventies, as part of a movement toward acknowledging that women had to learn workplace tools as well as men (and there were limited hours). So, out with the kitchen, in with the adding machine/woodworking/metal working/keyboarding. I know that schools are overloaded with things they have been instructed they must teach. 
    Given we have now got a generation of parents who don’t know how to cook (didn’t/couldn’t/haven’t learned from their parents) I think we need to bring it back — for both boys and girls, because we’ve got a large population of people who live on their own these days. 
    Cooking programs on The Food Network these days aren’t so much about “here’s how you cook something” as “here’s an impossible challenge that we expect most professional cooks to fail.” And with that kind of an outlook, how do we expect people to learn how to create basic meals? We’ve exalted cooking to a level that we’re almost expcting “Don’t try this at home” warnings. 
    This gives a huge space for processed food manufacturers to step in — they’ve solved the difficult challenges, and you can have your meal in 20 minutes: for a cost. The cost is both financial and skill-based.
    So yah, Len’s got it right. And the challenge has it right. These are two things we need to do: ensure people can afford good food, and ensure that they know what to do with it, and are able to create budgets, menus, and dishes. (man I get wordy when I jump on my soapbox)

    • May 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      PatAnderson I love it when you get wordy, you say smart words. 
      Thank you for weighing in!

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