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ME/CFS and the Poverty Diet

by Jody Smith

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Chronic illness and the Poverty Diet often go together. Far too often. I was on the Poverty Diet for many years. I have ME/CFS, my husband Alan deals with crippling past injuries and fibromyalgia. We raised our children on the Poverty Diet during more than half their childhoods.

It is a no-brainer (pardon the ME/CFS pun) that when you can’t work, you aren’t making any money. It is less obvious, to many who haven’t been through it, that people who can’t work because of poor health are not automatically protected by any kind of federal safety net – social, financial or otherwise.

Alan and I had no such safety net provided by our government. We were luckier than some in that a few family members would contribute food and money to our household, some occasionally, and some on a regular basis. But even with such philanthropy, there was never enough money to pay all our bills and buy adequate food. Not for years on end.

We were experts on squeezing everything possible out of a nickel. We could feed a family of seven on three dollars a day. Not well, but enough to fill everyone’s bellies. We sought out the day-old bread, the sales. We bought stuff we didn’t much like because it was cheap. We bought white bread, noodles, margarine, few vegetables, rarely fruit or juices. Meat was cheap cuts and not too much of it.

As you may imagine, people who are sick to start with and who must live on the Poverty Diet for years, even decades, are being set up for worse health problems than they started with. A little over 10 years ago, I stumbled upon the Low Carb Diet, and learned that it worked much better for me than the Poverty Diet. We were in a situation for a couple of years when we could afford to buy the appropriate foods, and I began to feel better, to think better, and lost 50 pounds in the process.

Five years ago our finances took a solid dive and we were all on the Poverty Diet again. We were able in those days to pay only about 25 percent of our bills each month, juggling payments wildly, and somehow managing not to be without light or heat, or foreclosed upon. We wished we could live on our old Poverty Diet once again. We aspired to one day be able to afford the Poverty Diet we’d choked down in the past.

To eat, we went to the local food bank. This meant we only had to come up with a few dollars for groceries each month. But there was a problem with the Food Bank Diet, which is, let’s face it, another version of the Poverty Diet.

This is not the fault of those who work in the food banks. We were so grateful that these wonderful people cared about what happened to us. We weren’t used to people caring anymore. Being allowed to walk in there and be given food with no strings attached, no suspicion, no judgment, made me weep the first time I went in. They were so decent, and we hadn’t seen a lot of that in awhile.

The problem with the food bank was that most of the food was processed, high carb, lots of bread, bagged noodles, boxed noodles with powdered sauces, boxes of cereal, potatoes, rice … None of which I can safely eat.

There was some protein. A dozen eggs, a package or two of hot dogs, cans of tuna, cartons of milk, there would be enough to keep me going … for a few days out of each month. Cans of green beans or peas, tomato sauce, frozen carrots, cheese and peanut butter, all contributed in a limited fashion to some nutritional health. But most of the time I was eating canned spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, plain rice and noodles with margarine.

I gained back 30 of the pounds I’d lost on the Low Carb Diet before the Food Bank Diet. One winter I contended with hair falling out, and distressing pains, sparks, swirling sensations and little explosions in my nervous system.

The more I partook of this Diet, the worse my cognitive problems became. I would have food-induced panic attacks after too much wheat at a time. I was hungry all the time, while I was slowly gaining weight. Eating a dish of rice would leave me hungrier after I ate it than if I had eaten nothing at all, apparently due to my inability to properly metabolize most carbs.

The only other option, though, was to not eat at all. So even though I could feel myself sliding health-wise, cognitively, and said goodbye once more to my girlish figure … it could have been worse. For some people it is worse. I know some people who can’t work due to health issues, live in poverty and who manage on less than we had. But they are paying the penalty as their overall health is pushed further downhill.

We went to the food bank for three years. I started my ME/CFS website Ncubator.ca during the Food Bank Diet years, some months later I started my job while still on the diet. We were on the Food Bank Diet during the couple of years when I worked part time, and for a while after I hit full time hours. And now, it has been almost two years since my family and I have been able to walk away from the Food Bank Diet.

It is a wonderful thing to be able to eat decently. And apparently it is a privilege, not a right. Because many people are stuck with a Poverty Diet … and many others even less fortunate can only aspire to attain it some day. But it seems to me that everyone should be able to move beyond the Poverty Diet and its kindly-meant counterpart, the Food Bank Diet, and have a decent chance to heal.

What kind of diet has ME/CFS brought into your home?

'I was completely lost and in the dark before I found this website. I can never express what this place means to me.' Phoenix Rising forum member

 

{ 81 comments… add one }

  • Valentijn July 25, 2013, 11:00 pm

    I've been lucky so far, in that my fiance can afford to feed us both very well. I'm limited in my ability to cook, so we buy pre-chopped meats and vegetables which I can (usually) throw together for dinner along with a bit of rice and some sort of sauce or curry paste.

    But if I don't have some meat twice a day, I start to feel very crappy – though the same thing seems to happen if I try to low-carb again, despite low-carb working well in the past. I also have to avoid MSG and its various aliases.

    I think I'm also fortunate to be living in the Netherlands, where being unemployed for whatever reason doesn't result in the sort of poverty seen in the US. There's a very good benefits system here, and there's a lot of peace of mind that comes from that, even if it's not needed yet.

  • Little Bluestem July 26, 2013, 12:01 am

    This is an excellent article. I think it should be seen by a wider audience than here at Phoenix Rising, perhaps as Illness and the Poverty Diet. You might add a paragraph on “what I wish you would donate to the food pantry”.

    I work part-time caring for my parents and make enough money to meet my basic needs. I am on the low energy diet. I don’t cook much of anything on the stove except eggs and water for tea. I do use my microwave.

    Meat comes from microwave dinners (I buy the better quality brands), cans, the grocery store deli, fast food sandwiches, and the occasional restaurant or deli meal. I also use cheese, peanut butter, nuts, and protein powder, along with my daily breakfast eggs, as protein sources. My iron is low and decreasing. I am trying to eat more red meat.

    I get salads from the grocery store deli. I eat a lot of packaged coleslaw mix (without dressing) and carrots. Since developing liver problems, I have bought jars of picked beets which I like to eat cold.

    Both of my parents have dementia. Berries and cherries are supposed to be good for the brain, so I buy them – fresh when in season, frozen when not. I eat just half a serving a day since I am a small person (and they are expensive). I also eat applesauce and drink fruit juice.

    The quality of my diet is limited more by my energy for meal prep and clean-up than by my finances.

  • valentinelynx July 26, 2013, 12:25 am

    I think it used to be well known that what you've called the "Poverty Diet" is the cause of obesity among poor people. I recall my mother commenting (not nicely) that a woman we knew was getting fat because she couldn't afford a high quality diet (had to eat pasta). This was in the '60s, before the stupid "low fat" craze hit the world, leading people to think that carbs were great, as long as fat was avoided. For a fascinating look at why carbs are not good for you, and why people can get fat while being malnourished read Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories. Blew me away. Blew away 50 pounds, too, when I stopped eating carbs.

  • MeSci July 26, 2013, 6:38 am
    Little Bluestem

    This is an excellent article. I think it should be seen by a wider audience than here at Phoenix Rising, perhaps as Illness and the Poverty Diet. You might add a paragraph on “what I wish you would donate to the food pantry”.

    I don't know whether food banks in the US have similar rules to those in the UK, but here we can only donate packaged food. I was very frustrated when I was trying to donate some delicious, fresh surplus apples from my tree. They would not take them. I commented at the time that it was a bad idea to force stressed, poor people to live on processed food with no fresh fruit and veg.

    I noted the stark contrast with a TV item on the economic downturn in Greece, where farmers were donating crates of fresh fruit and veg to the poor.

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 6:53 am
    Valentijn

    I've been lucky so far, in that my fiance can afford to feed us both very well. I'm limited in my ability to cook, so we buy pre-chopped meats and vegetables which I can (usually) throw together for dinner along with a bit of rice and some sort of sauce or curry paste.

    But if I don't have some meat twice a day, I start to feel very crappy – though the same thing seems to happen if I try to low-carb again, despite low-carb working well in the past. I also have to avoid MSG and its various aliases.

    I think I'm also fortunate to be living in the Netherlands, where being unemployed for whatever reason doesn't result in the sort of poverty seen in the US. There's a very good benefits system here, and there's a lot of peace of mind that comes from that, even if it's not needed yet.

    Valentijn,

    I have to have meat a couple of times a day too, or I begin to get ill. Eating on the cheap for so many years gets very expensive in the long run when trying to overcome the physical and cognitive problems the Poverty Diet incurs. I used to be able to eat a far wider variety of foods before I got sick.

    I'm glad you live somewhere that offers some safety net. I live in Canada which is maybe not quite so bad as in the U.S. We have medical coverage that Americans don't have, just by virtue of being Canadian. Not that it has done me much good since only my naturopath (who isn't covered by the way) has done me any good.

    The other advantage here in Canada has been what used to be called the Baby Bonus which all parents receive. Though we never qualified for Welfare or Disability of any kind, the Baby Bonus helped us survive for many years. I would have liked to have been able to put the money aside each month for the kids, for schooling or other things they'd needed growing up but we needed to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, and I don't know how we could have managed that without the Baby Bonus.

  • MeSci July 26, 2013, 6:57 am
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    Great article, Jody.

    I hadn't heard of what you describe as being called the 'poverty diet'. It sounds like what is known in the UK as a junk food diet. I'm sure I have come across papers that show that the diet in the UK under 2nd World War rationing was healthy, and I think people ate a less-healthy diet, and thus became less healthy, when rationing ceased. I guess the rations were designed to keep people healthy.

    I was malnourished in the early days of ME due to poverty. It was so depressing, making a shopping list, then looking in my purse and crossing almost everything off the list. After a while I was retching as soon as I woke up each morning and had diarrhoea. I had already had IBS for years. Soon I was vomiting every day. So I was not eating healthily, and what I did eat was not used effectively. How on earth was I going to get better and return to work? It sounds much more civilised in the Netherlands, and I believe the same applies in a number of other EU countries. In the UK, and it seems in the US, they seem to think that they can cure the sick by keeping them poor!

    I so agree with valentinelynx. Low-carb is the way to go. I too lost excess weight, and symptoms are much milder, some almost gone. My muscles have built up again. I'm not hungry all the time. But my version of low-carb is a vegan one. You can get adequate amounts of almost all nutrients from a balanced vegan diet. Exceptions are Vitamin B12 and, for those with poor conversion of short-chain omega-3s, long-chain omega-3s, but there are vegan supplements of these, with the long-chain omega-3 derived from cultivated algae.

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 6:59 am
    Little Bluestem

    This is an excellent article. I think it should be seen by a wider audience than here at Phoenix Rising, perhaps as Illness and the Poverty Diet. You might add a paragraph on “what I wish you would donate to the food pantry”.

    I work part-time caring for my parents and make enough money to meet my basic needs. I am on the low energy diet. I don’t cook much of anything on the stove except eggs and water for tea. I do use my microwave.

    Meat comes from microwave dinners (I buy the better quality brands), cans, the grocery store deli, fast food sandwiches, and the occasional restaurant or deli meal. I also use cheese, peanut butter, nuts, and protein powder, along with my daily breakfast eggs, as protein sources. My iron is low and decreasing. I am trying to eat more red meat.

    I get salads from the grocery store deli. I eat a lot of packaged coleslaw mix (without dressing) and carrots. Since developing liver problems, I have bought jars of picked beets which I like to eat cold.

    Both of my parents have dementia. Berries and cherries are supposed to be good for the brain, so I buy them – fresh when in season, frozen when not. I eat just half a serving a day since I am a small person (and they are expensive). I also eat applesauce and drink fruit juice.

    The quality of my diet is limited more by my energy for meal prep and clean-up than by my finances.

    Little Bluestem,

    Your suggestion about an added paragraph might be a good seed of an idea for another article. Thanks.

    The low energy diet sucks too. Glad to hear you can afford to eat at least.

    My mother's family has dementia in it. I take omega-3 oil and vit. B12 which are supposed to be helpful. Also consider coconut oil. The taste makes me want to retch but it's not the first vile supplement I've taken and learned to live with.:)

    Re: dementia. There are researchers thinking that there is a link between dementia and blood sugar. Some call dementia Type 3 diabetes. In which case, carbs would be something to watch for.

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 7:03 am
    valentinelynx

    I think it used to be well known that what you've called the "Poverty Diet" is the cause of obesity among poor people. I recall my mother commenting (not nicely) that a woman we knew was getting fat because she couldn't afford a high quality diet (had to eat pasta). This was in the '60s, before the stupid "low fat" craze hit the world, leading people to think that carbs were great, as long as fat was avoided. For a fascinating look at why carbs are not good for you, and why people can get fat while being malnourished read Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories. Blew me away. Blew away 50 pounds, too, when I stopped eating carbs.

    Valentinlynx,

    I do remember back before people became insane (self included) about what to eat a quarter of a century ago. And yes, common sense and just using your own eyes told you what eating all that starch and sugar does to most people.

    I love Gary Taubes.:) In 2002, I stumbled upon an article about fat that he wrote that changed my life. Before I had to go back on the Poverty Diet a few years ago, I had lost close to 50 lb without dieting or overamping on exercise and the weight was continuing to slowly come off (maybe half a pound a month at that point) five years into the low carb regimen.

    And of course, I discovered going low carb that for me, this also led to a major decrease in most of my ME/CFS symptoms as well.

  • MeSci July 26, 2013, 7:06 am

    Meant to add – I couldn't afford heating AT ALL until recently when I started receiving small occupational pensions after being ill for 18 years. I went through the two recent freezing winters in the UK with almost no heating at all. (What I did have was bought on credit, which I just had to keep building up.) I was going out scavenging firewood in the fields. Three days of that in a row wiped me out for a week. Eventually the over-exertion caught up with me and I was hospitalised for 4 days, having become dangerously hyponatraemic. In the 3 years since then I have been even less able to work than before, although things have gradually improved again since I went low-carb and gluten-free, and been pacing better. So I have been able to earn even less due to over-exertion due to lack of government support.

    Since 1995 I have not been able to afford to run a car, and I'm not sure that I would be able to drive far now.

    Well done for (not) supporting me back into earning my living again, UK Government. :(

  • Valentijn July 26, 2013, 7:07 am

    The foodbank issues remind me of a store I was shopping at with my mother, when they were holding a food drive for homeless youth. There was a list of the foods the organization wanted, and all of it was processed crap with 0 nutritional value other than calories. Instead of following the list, we donated a canned meat that wasn't too scary – if they're eating poptarts all the time, they could probably use some protein once in a while :p

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 7:11 am
    MeSci

    I don't know whether food banks in the US have similar rules to those in the UK, but here we can only donate packaged food. I was very frustrated when I was trying to donate some delicious, fresh surplus apples from my tree. They would not take them. I commented at the time that it was a bad idea to force stressed, poor people to live on processed food with no fresh fruit and veg.

    I noted the stark contrast with a TV item on the economic downturn in Greece, where farmers were donating crates of fresh fruit and veg to the poor.

    That is too bad about the restrictions at the food bank there. Perhaps they can't handle keeping track of perishables. Processed stuff never goes bad. In a way.:)

    I'm not in the U.S., I am in Ontario, Canada. I find though that where I live, different food banks in different towns may operate by different guidelines. Depends on who's funding them I think. The one I went to was run by a couple of women who put together a setup where various stores and other groups donate regularly, and they can decide then (within food safety regulations and whatnot) what they want to offer.

    They offer fresh produce which is wonderful. Most of their stuff is supremely processed, and very bad for me. But they welcome fresh food.

    Another thing about the diversity among food banks — If I lived in a town 20 minutes away, I would not have been able to go to their foodbank. That one requires paperwork that shows you are on some kind of assistance, on welfare or disability of some kind. Nobody in my family of three sickies qualify for any of that. So … there's irony in the fact that when the government's safety nets are closed to you, so are the food banks. And people with nowhere to turn in that town are REALLY screwed.

    If I'd had some kind of government assistance maybe I wouldn't have needed the food bank. But because I have no assistance I can't go there?

    I have treasured the food bank in my town and the people who run it. I went in the first time with all the paperwork I could think of, fresh from having to offer up validation of my existence repeatedly when looking for some government assistance. I had a wad of bills and stuff in my purse, and started to take it out. But she said I didn't need any of that.

    She said, "You're here. You wouldn't be here if you didn't need help. And we want to help you." The tears poured down my face as I let her help me.

  • MeSci July 26, 2013, 7:14 am
    Jody

    Also consider coconut oil. The taste makes me want to retch but it's not the first vile supplement I've taken and learned to live with.:)

    I love coconut oil! I use it instead of margarine now, and for cooking.

    Jody

    Re: dementia. There are researchers thinking that there is a link between dementia and blood sugar. Some call dementia Type 3 diabetes. In which case, carbs would be something to watch for.

    I agree in principle. I focused a lot on dementia in my Masters degree studies, and especially on the link between vascular disease and dementia, not just the so-called 'vascular dementia' but other kinds too, including 'Alzheimer's'.

    The road to so many chronic diseases leads back to carbs.

  • golden July 26, 2013, 7:18 am

    I had the pleasure of trying out a food bank last year.

    I cant remember all my complaints about it but they are numerous .

    1) In the UK they are only designed for people whose benefits are late or delayed.

    They are not designed for those of us who are disabled and either unable to claim benefite due to the abusive system or for those who have been rejected benefits due to the system.

    I went twice and on the third time I was rudely told I was only allowed to come three times. I was treated like scum.

    2) The actual food.

    You are supposed to go only once per week and yet the food parcel contains enough food for only 3 days. Go Figure!

    The regular parcel contained:

    Coffee
    Sugar
    Biscuits
    milk
    sugar cereal
    tinned crap
    fresh fish.
    possibly meat item.
    pasta

    As an alien, who couldn't eat any of that, I received the appropriate negative looks :)

    They were perplexed and altogether put out at my rejection of coffee sugar and so on and became politely hostile .

    They dont cater effectively for vegetarians either.

    They did cobble together some useful stuff , but then failed to make up a full parcel for me.

    For example, i asked for an additional packet of brown rice and they said no.

    There is no good reason not to have fresh fruit and veg. None whatsoever.

    When I was homeless all the Church provided was Gluten and beans on toast which i was excluded from.

    There was once a night hand out of food where i couldn't eat any of it but soneone had cut up some celery sticks and put it in a plastic cup… i was very grateful and the only one who ate it lol.

    At X-mas once I was handed a plastic carrier bag. (samaritans maybe ) It had a Chicken in it (dead ) , pen and pad and another item . Merry X-mas I was told. Nice.

    3) I noted they should also be collecting pet food for people too.

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 7:21 am
    MeSci

    Meant to add – I couldn't afford heating AT ALL until recently when I started receiving small occupational pensions after being ill for 18 years. I went through the two recent freezing winters in the UK with almost no heating at all. (What I did have was bought on credit, which I just had to keep building up.) I was going out scavenging firewood in the fields. Three days of that in a row wiped me out for a week. Eventually the over-exertion caught up with me and I was hospitalised for 4 days, having become dangerously hyponatraemic. In the 3 years since then I have been even less able to work than before, although things have gradually improved again since I went low-carb and gluten-free, and been pacing better. So I have been able to earn even less due to over-exertion due to lack of government support.

    Since 1995 I have not been able to afford to run a car, and I'm not sure that I would be able to drive far now.

    Well done for (not) supporting me back into earning my living again, UK Government. :(

    MESci,

    Oh my. Your experience sounds so like mine and my husband's in the early years of being sick. Right down to collecting the firewood. Our oil furnace apparently leaked fumes into the house and may have been an element of what made us sick (there were many other poisoning experiences we had over a few years). We couldn't afford to replace the furnace and had to heat with wood which my husband with rib injuries had to chop every day. We had to burn chairs and an old crib to get through a period without wood. I shudder to remember those days.

    I understand what that does to a person to be constantly denied even the basics of what's needed to keep body and soul alive for months and years on end. You have managed to survive it. I salute you. I know that is no small task and not everyone can do it.

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 7:25 am
    Valentijn

    The foodbank issues remind me of a store I was shopping at with my mother, when they were holding a food drive for homeless youth. There was a list of the foods the organization wanted, and all of it was processed crap with 0 nutritional value other than calories. Instead of following the list, we donated a canned meat that wasn't too scary – if they're eating poptarts all the time, they could probably use some protein once in a while :p

    Good thinking, Valentijn. That would be the best way to go. And I can tell you if I had been the recipient of that canned meat amongst all the breads and pastas, I'd have rejoiced, with tears.:)

    My old food bank also has a list that they have in their storefront window, which does at least also include fresh foods, but majors on things like canned soups, boxed mac and cheese, canned vegetables. They will take just about anything though which is good.

    One day I hope to earn enough to be able to give regularly to the food bank. When that day comes we'll major on giving meat and fresh veg.

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 7:29 am
    MeSci

    I love coconut oil! I use it instead of margarine now, and for cooking.

    I agree in principle. I focused a lot on dementia in my Masters degree studies, and especially on the link between vascular disease and dementia, not just the so-called 'vascular dementia' but other kinds too, including 'Alzheimer's'.

    The road to so many chronic diseases leads back to carbs.

    MeSci,

    I wish I loved coconut oil. :) I aspire to love it one day or at least be able to consistently choke it down.

    Fish oil used to do the same thing to me. Worse, in fact. It made me feel like up-chucking all day. Coconut oil just does that for a few minutes.:) After a few months I got to love fish oil. Same brand and everything, so it was me that changed.

    I speculated that maybe the extreme reaction I had to fish oil was an indicator of just how badly I needed it. My body didn't seem to know what to do with it.

    I agree about carbs. Now that I am aware of how bad they are for me, I am noticing their presence in all kinds of bad situations. I don't think everyone does best on low carb, I know people who get sick on it. But for those of us who can't handle carbs … I do miss a good sandwich every once in awhile though.:)

  • golden July 26, 2013, 7:32 am
    Jody

    That is too bad about the restrictions at the food bank there. Perhaps they can't handle keeping track of perishables. Processed stuff never goes bad. In a way.:)

    I'm not in the U.S., I am in Ontario, Canada. I find though that where I live, different food banks in different towns may operate by different guidelines. Depends on who's funding them I think. The one I went to was run by a couple of women who put together a setup where various stores and other groups donate regularly, and they can decide then (within food safety regulations and whatnot) what they want to offer.

    They offer fresh produce which is wonderful. Most of their stuff is supremely processed, and very bad for me. But they welcome fresh food.

    Another thing about the diversity among food banks — If I lived in a town 20 minutes away, I would not have been able to go to their foodbank. That one requires paperwork that shows you are on some kind of assistance, on welfare or disability of some kind. Nobody in my family of three sickies qualify for any of that. So … there's irony in the fact that when the government's safety nets are closed to you, so are the food banks. And people with nowhere to turn in that town are REALLY screwed.

    If I'd had some kind of government assistance maybe I wouldn't have needed the food bank. But because I have no assistance I can't go there?

    I have treasured the food bank in my town and the people who run it. I went in the first time with all the paperwork I could think of, fresh from having to offer up validation of my existence repeatedly when looking for some government assistance. I had a wad of bills and stuff in my purse, and started to take it out. But she said I didn't need any of that.

    She said, "You're here. You wouldn't be here if you didn't need help. And we want to help you." The tears poured down my face as I let her help me.

    In the UK its very much you have to be on benefits to claim more benefits.

    Ihave been currently rejected for my Water rates benefit relief due to not claiming benefits. Its disgraceful. :(

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 7:38 am
    golden

    I had the pleasure of trying out a food bank last year.

    I cant remember all my complaints about it but they are numerous .

    1) In the UK they are only designed for people whose benefits are late or delayed.

    They are not designed for those of us who are disabled and either unable to claim benefite due to the abusive system or for those who have been rejected benefits due to the system.

    I went twice and on the third time I was rudely told I was only allowed to come three times. I was treated like scum.

    2) The actual food.

    You are supposed to go only once per week and yet the food parcel contains enough food for only 3 days. Go Figure!

    The regular parcel contained:

    Coffee
    Sugar
    Biscuits
    milk
    sugar cereal
    tinned crap
    fresh fish.
    possibly meat item.
    pasta

    As an alien, who couldn't eat any of that, I received the appropriate negative looks :)

    They were perplexed and altogether put out at my rejection of coffee sugar and so on and became politely hostile .

    They dont cater effectively for vegetarians either.

    They did cobble together some useful stuff , but then failed to make up a full parcel for me.

    For example, i asked for an additional packet of brown rice and they said no.

    There is no good reason not to have fresh fruit and veg. None whatsoever.

    When I was homeless all the Church provided was Gluten and beans on toast which i was excluded from.

    There was once a night hand out of food where i couldn't eat any of it but soneone had cut up some celery sticks and put it in a plastic cup… i was very grateful and the only one who ate it lol.

    At X-mas once I was handed a plastic carrier bag. (samaritans maybe ) It had a Chicken in it (dead ) , pen and pad and another item . Merry X-mas I was told. Nice.

    3) I noted they should also be collecting pet food for people too.

    Golden,

    That's awful. I was very lucky in that "my" food bank did not exclude people who weren't on assistance. We could only go every 3 weeks and they would pile up a shopping carts' worth of food — as long as there had been enough donations to be able to do so. But I don't think it was meant to be a comprehensive all-you-need proposition. We certainly could not make it stretch for 3 weeks. But we could make it work for two weeks.

    I wished I could have traded all that carby junk that I couldn't eat, for a little more of what I could eat, but that was not possible. My son and husband could eat most of the junk without evidence of being sickened by it so we took it. But what I could eat was pretty sparse. People who donate to the foodbanks in general from what I've seen, have no idea about what is nutritious and what is not. The ones who do really stand out in terms of their donations.

    I so agree about the pet food. My food bank was happy to get it from people but I know that in the years I went there, pet food wasn't available very often. Big relief if you knew you could feed your pet every week.

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 7:40 am
    golden

    In the UK its very much you have to be on benefits to claim more benefits.

    Ihave been currently rejected for my Water rates benefit relief due to not claiming benefits. Its disgraceful. :(

    Makes me crazy thinking about this. I was lucky in terms of the food bank — we were able to go there despite not being able to get benefits. What a punch in the gut that is, to have been turned down everywhere else and have no money and be unable to buy food, and can't get it from the foodbank either …. Do the people that make these decisions not think? At all?

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 7:45 am
    MeSci

    I so agree with valentinelynx. Low-carb is the way to go. I too lost excess weight, and symptoms are much milder, some almost gone. My muscles have built up again. I'm not hungry all the time. But my version of low-carb is a vegan one. You can get adequate amounts of almost all nutrients from a balanced vegan diet. Exceptions are Vitamin B12 and, for those with poor conversion of short-chain omega-3s, long-chain omega-3s, but there are vegan supplements of these, with the long-chain omega-3 derived from cultivated algae.

    I would like to be able to be vegetarian, used to be able to eat cheese and other dairy, and eggs. Could never go the vegan route but I'd like to be able to quit eating meat. However, I can't handle most dairy and a decade ago I suddenly developed a reaction to eggs. I can't handle nuts and legumes at all.

  • Valentijn July 26, 2013, 8:00 am
    Jody

    I wish I loved coconut oil. :) I aspire to love it one day or at least be able to consistently choke it down.

    I used to cook with coconut oil, but since I've been sick I've been doing a ton of coconut cream based sauces. It works very well for asian flavors of course, but it also does nicely for more western dishes, such as going for a Stroganoff or creamy tomato dish. So maybe it's possible to get the benefits of coconut oil that way, without the upchuck factor 😮

  • golden July 26, 2013, 8:14 am
    Jody

    Makes me crazy thinking about this. I was lucky in terms of the food bank — we were able to go there despite not being able to get benefits. What a punch in the gut that is, to have been turned down everywhere else and have no money and be unable to buy food, and can't get it from the foodbank either …. Do the people that make these decisions not think? At all?

    Food bank rules over there sound much better…

    These days, I get nightmares from the word 'Help ' – We want to 'Help ' you … lol

    I have only sobering thoughts on 'do gooders ' too. Bit grumpy about the subject.

    I think do gooders are mostly in it to give their ego a massive boost, to be superior or to get into heaven or something .
    But not much thought has gone into the wisdom of giving.

    We have people handing out free flip flops to drunken people out on the town r the weekends for example.

    There are countless Charities now who have done considerable damage all over the world.
    There was even a documentary on this from disillusioned charity workers.

    When is Helping actually Harming?

    I bet some people are thinking…

    beggars cant be choosers

    you are ungrateful

    you should be pleased with ANY help

    and so on.

    But the bottom line is I have a neurological illness. I need a special diet. Benefits were blocked to me. No-one offered REAL help.

  • MeSci July 26, 2013, 8:29 am
    Jody

    MESci,

    Oh my. Your experience sounds so like mine and my husband's in the early years of being sick. Right down to collecting the firewood. Our oil furnace apparently leaked fumes into the house and may have been an element of what made us sick (there were many other poisoning experiences we had over a few years). We couldn't afford to replace the furnace and had to heat with wood which my husband with rib injuries had to chop every day. We had to burn chairs and an old crib to get through a period without wood. I shudder to remember those days.

    I understand what that does to a person to be constantly denied even the basics of what's needed to keep body and soul alive for months and years on end. You have managed to survive it. I salute you. I know that is no small task and not everyone can do it.

    You are embarrassing me now, Jody! :redface:

    It's just a survival instinct. Many of us have clearly been through similar, including you.

  • MeSci July 26, 2013, 8:44 am
    Jody

    Makes me crazy thinking about this. I was lucky in terms of the food bank — we were able to go there despite not being able to get benefits. What a punch in the gut that is, to have been turned down everywhere else and have no money and be unable to buy food, and can't get it from the foodbank either …. Do the people that make these decisions not think? At all?

    I just think they don't have a clue. I couldn't get a bus pass because I didn't have the right disability or the right benefit! I couldn't get help with winter fuel costs because I didn't receive qualifying benefits. I was (and am) on Working Tax Credit with a disability premium, because I want to work and have been doing my best to do so. You'd think that would be rewarded more. Another bizarre thing with the Working Tax Credit is that you get more if you work full-time. But if you can work full-time you are less likely to need it! With the new Universal Credit that is being phased in, I understand that self-employed recipients will be expected to be earning the minimum wage after a year. Disabled people have been pointing out that many disabled people will not be able to build up a business that quickly. And again, if I was earning anything like the minimum wage I would not need benefits at all!

  • MeSci July 26, 2013, 8:48 am
    Jody

    But for those of us who can't handle carbs … I do miss a good sandwich every once in awhile though.:)

    Bread was my favourite carb, and it took me some time to find gluten-free bread that I liked, but I have now, and am OK with an occasional sandwich or roll.

  • Ema July 26, 2013, 9:25 am

    This whole article makes me feel so sad. Sad at the struggles people are forced through, sad about the state of our food supply, just sad, sad, sad…

    Ema

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 10:10 am
    golden

    Food bank rules over there sound much better…

    These days, I get nightmares from the word 'Help ' – We want to 'Help ' you … lol

    I have only sobering thoughts on 'do gooders ' too. Bit grumpy about the subject.

    I think do gooders are mostly in it to give their ego a massive boost, to be superior or to get into heaven or something .
    But not much thought has gone into the wisdom of giving.

    We have people handing out free flip flops to drunken people out on the town r the weekends for example.

    There are countless Charities now who have done considerable damage all over the world.
    There was even a documentary on this from disillusioned charity workers.

    When is Helping actually Harming?

    I bet some people are thinking…

    beggars cant be choosers

    you are ungrateful

    you should be pleased with ANY help

    and so on.

    But the bottom line is I have a neurological illness. I need a special diet. Benefits were blocked to me. No-one offered REAL help.

    I know what you mean, Golden.

    And gratefulness or lack of it does not come into this mistrust of "helpers" nor your dissatisfaction with the little help aimed your way.

    We have a neurological illness, as you said. And we are human beings.

    Beggars can't be choosers? Sometimes circumstances make that true. But that doesn't mean we don't know how things should be, it doesn't mean that we can't be angry at being dismissed and abandoned at the most basic level.

    I was pleased to have any food to eat. But I was not pleased that it was mostly food that would make me sick and fat. I had a right to how I felt. I had a right to want what I needed. I had a right to my opinion about what was being offered up, and I had a right to think that many charities and so-called helpers are idiots or self-serving or incredibly naive at best.

    Whether they think we have a "right" to how we feel or what we think or what we want or not is irrelevant. We do and we claim it.

    I think there are a couple of kinds of helpers. Some are the egotists as you mentioned. Some are well-meaning but know little about what they are trying to remedy and are ineffectual or harmful as a consequence. Then there are some who are conscientious, smart, know their stuff, maybe have been through it themselves — I think often this is the best kind of helper, one who has been through it.

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 10:12 am
    MeSci

    You are embarrassing me now, Jody! :redface:

    It's just a survival instinct. Many of us have clearly been through similar, including you.

    Yeah, I've been through it too. And, yes, there is a survival instinct. But there is also a determination to persevere even in the face of insurmountable obstacles. You have that. That should be acknowledged and you should be able to hear that it is seen and recognized.

    We are all friggin' heroes.:)

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 10:15 am
    MeSci

    I just think they don't have a clue. I couldn't get a bus pass because I didn't have the right disability or the right benefit! I couldn't get help with winter fuel costs because I didn't receive qualifying benefits. I was (and am) on Working Tax Credit with a disability premium, because I want to work and have been doing my best to do so. You'd think that would be rewarded more. Another bizarre thing with the Working Tax Credit is that you get more if you work full-time. But if you can work full-time you are less likely to need it! With the new Universal Credit that is being phased in, I understand that self-employed recipients will be expected to be earning the minimum wage after a year. Disabled people have been pointing out that many disabled people will not be able to build up a business that quickly. And again, if I was earning anything like the minimum wage I would not need benefits at all!

    Canada doesn't make any more sense than the UK in these kinds of things. I couldn't get Welfare because I wasn't well enough to go to work, in that situation you're supposed to go for Disability. But I couldn't get a disability pension or the like either because there wasn't enough acceptable proof that I, my husband or my son were disabled. And so we go round and round …

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 10:18 am
    Ema

    This whole article makes me feel so sad. Sad at the struggles people are forced through, sad about the state of our food supply, just sad, sad, sad…

    Ema

    It is, isn't it Ema. I couldn't agree more. I have been fortunate to be able to move on to a more "normal" life, the prospect of future days or weeks without food is no longer the start to my day. But I know it's the case for so many, and that often it would take so little to make a huge change in their lives.

    Where are the philanthropists and benefactors? Where are the champions? For that matter, in many cases — where are the families of these sick, starving people? There are families that ignore the plight of some of their own because … why? because it's inconvenient? because it is too uncomfortable to imagine what they're dealing with or to go see them and find out? This makes me furious, makes me want to weep and tear things down.

  • caledonia July 26, 2013, 12:39 pm

    Where do I start? I think about these things a lot.

    I've never had to use a food bank, but was close enough to the edge enough times to check out where my nearest food bank was and the rules. It was at a church. It was only open on certain days. You got one bag of groceries. You had to take whatever was offered; you couldn't for example, take out all the gluten stuff and add more gluten free stuff. This food (and I use the term loosely), would have been ok for my BF, but not for me.

    In the US, you can get food stamps (now called SNAP). It's based on income, so all you need to do is show documentation of low income and you're in. You can get assistance within a few weeks and don't have to wait years like getting on disability. You can get up to $200 a month. You get a SNAP debit card, and you go to the regular grocery store and shop like a regular person. I would like to hear people's experiences with this program.

    Next point – with all the GMOs, pesticides, and antibiotics/hormones, the food supply in this country is scary, but so is people's food choices even when they have the choice. I go to the grocery store, and sometimes look at what other people in the checkout line are buying. I am the only one with vegetables. Everyone else has a cart full of gluten and high fructose corn syrup.

    I've started a permaculture garden in my backyard so I can grow my own organic food – can't afford it otherwise.

  • Nielk July 26, 2013, 1:16 pm
    Jody

    It is, isn't it Ema. I couldn't agree more. I have been fortunate to be able to move on to a more "normal" life, the prospect of future days or weeks without food is no longer the start to my day. But I know it's the case for so many, and that often it would take so little to make a huge change in their lives.

    Where are the philanthropists and benefactors? Where are the champions? For that matter, in many cases — where are the families of these sick, starving people? There are families that ignore the plight of some of their own because … why? because it's inconvenient? because it is too uncomfortable to imagine what they're dealing with or to go see them and find out? This makes me furious, makes me want to weep and tear things down.

    Thank you Jody for your honest down to earth, informative, recounting of the hardships that you went through. Unfortunately, there are so many families affected by unemployment and poverty. This will have a direct effect on their health.

    Regarding your questions about where the champions are, in my community there is a private food program
    organization that provide an deliver weekly packages of food to the needy families. All one needs to do is call and ask to be put on the list. It is all run by volunteers. Food for the week is collected and delivered to the door. At times, it is just left by the door so as not to cause embarrassment to the recipient. The funds for this are collected from community members. It's a beautiful reflection of what a united community can do.

  • alex3619 July 26, 2013, 1:55 pm

    My experience of food banks in Australia is different. Some places have free baskets of food you can ask for, most of it packaged. More food can be paid for at a very low rate, to cover overheads of running the food bank.

    One place I used to buy from (at about 20% cost) developed two problems. First, the "fresh" food was typically rotten. It got parcelled up with the unrotten food which meant the OK food had rotting food all over it. I had the experience at another supermarket of frozen cooked meat. On defrosting it was off.

    The second issue is that anything decent donated to them was sold at near supermarket rates. They had gone from a food bank to an expired food supermarket.

    There are three foodbanks in my area, which tells you a lot about where I had to move to in order to afford to pay rent.

    When I calculated a few times what I could eat for the money I was charged, I figured I could do better at a regular supermarket. This depends on which food bank I use of course. Canned goods are usually safe, if you can eat them without running into intolerances.

    The Rudd government here gave a boost to pensions a few years ago. After that I no longer had to rely on foodbanks. Sometimes I go to one when I can walk …. there is one in my street that is good as these things go, but it is maybe a 150m walk each way which I definitely can not do every day, and not at the moment until my left ankle more fully heals.

    On the other hand I once bought a box of frozen pea and ham soup intended for delicatessens. It was much much much nicer than anything in a supermarket, and the whole box (with maybe six or eight portions of soup) was $5. Another time I got frozen meals from a restaurant at almost nothing costwise … red curry duck from a thai restaurant! Sadly these are the only two good buys that stick out in memory despite using food banks for years.

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 2:28 pm
    caledonia

    Where do I start? I think about these things a lot.

    I've never had to use a food bank, but was close enough to the edge enough times to check out where my nearest food bank was and the rules. It was at a church. It was only open on certain days. You got one bag of groceries. You had to take whatever was offered; you couldn't for example, take out all the gluten stuff and add more gluten free stuff. This food (and I use the term loosely), would have been ok for my BF, but not for me.

    In the US, you can get food stamps (now called SNAP). It's based on income, so all you need to do is show documentation of low income and you're in. You can get assistance within a few weeks and don't have to wait years like getting on disability. You can get up to $200 a month. You get a SNAP debit card, and you go to the regular grocery store and shop like a regular person. I would like to hear people's experiences with this program.

    Next point – with all the GMOs, pesticides, and antibiotics/hormones, the food supply in this country is scary, but so is people's food choices even when they have the choice. I go to the grocery store, and sometimes look at what other people in the checkout line are buying. I am the only one with vegetables. Everyone else has a cart full of gluten and high fructose corn syrup.

    I've started a permaculture garden in my backyard so I can grow my own organic food – can't afford it otherwise.

    Caledonia,

    The food stamps sound good, if it works the way it is supposed to. There was a program in the town where I live which we were able to use for several months which provided gift cards to one of the local grocery stores. You could buy whatever you wanted with them, they just asked that you bring in the store receipts when you came to get your next month's gift cards. That felt better and meant you could get what you needed.

    I agree with you about how much toxic junk so many people seem to eat as a steady diet. Even when they don't have to. I don't understand it either.

    I have a very small garden this year. A bit bigger than last year's. Maybe next year's will be a bit bigger yet.

    Some yellow and green beans, a couple of tomato plants, a pot of chives, some cucumbers and squash plants. Most are in pots because I am not physically able to get down in the dirt and do the kind of digging needed. This seems to be working ok.

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 2:29 pm
    Nielk

    Thank you Jody for your honest down to earth, informative, recounting of the hardships that you went through. Unfortunately, there are so many families affected by unemployment and poverty. This will have a direct effect on their health.

    Regarding your questions about where the champions are, in my community there is a private food program
    organization that provide an deliver weekly packages of food to the needy families. All one needs to do is call and ask to be put on the list. It is all run by volunteers. Food for the week is collected and delivered to the door. At times, it is just left by the door so as not to cause embarrassment to the recipient. The funds for this are collected from community members. It's a beautiful reflection of what a united community can do.

    Nielk,

    I am happy to hear that there are champions in your community. It sounds like a wonderful program, with a great bunch of workers.

  • Jody July 26, 2013, 2:32 pm
    alex3619

    My experience of food banks in Australia is different. Some places have free baskets of food you can ask for, most of it packaged. More food can be paid for at a very low rate, to cover overheads of running the food bank.

    One place I used to buy from (at about 20% cost) developed two problems. First, the "fresh" food was typically rotten. It got parcelled up with the unrotten food which meant the OK food had rotting food all over it. I had the experience at another supermarket of frozen cooked meat. On defrosting it was off.

    The second issue is that anything decent donated to them was sold at near supermarket rates. They had gone from a food bank to an expired food supermarket.

    There are three foodbanks in my area, which tells you a lot about where I had to move to in order to afford to pay rent.

    When I calculated a few times what I could eat for the money I was charged, I figured I could do better at a regular supermarket. This depends on which food bank I use of course. Canned goods are usually safe, if you can eat them without running into intolerances.

    The Rudd government here gave a boost to pensions a few years ago. After that I no longer had to rely on foodbanks. Sometimes I go to one when I can walk …. there is one in my street that is good as these things go, but it is maybe a 150m walk each way which I definitely can not do every day, and not at the moment until my left ankle more fully heals.

    On the other hand I once bought a box of frozen pea and ham soup intended for delicatessens. It was much much much nicer than anything in a supermarket, and the whole box (with maybe six or eight portions of soup) was $5. Another time I got frozen meals from a restaurant at almost nothing costwise … red curry duck from a thai restaurant! Sadly these are the only two good buys that stick out in memory despite using food banks for years.

    Alex3619,

    That is VERY different from food banks as we know them in Canada, or at least as I know them at any rate. No money changes hands for food banks as far as I know around here.

    Sounds like it offers some variety in terms of selection and types of discounts.

  • rosie26 July 26, 2013, 2:51 pm

    I had a memorable experience some years ago. Being delivered a food parcel box one night by some good-hearted people, the funny thing was it felt more like I was opening up a Christmas parcel, there were boxes of chocolates, unusual teas, fancy biscuits, coffee sachets, a lot of the other stuff that was in there I don't normally eat. But I still laugh even today when thinking of that box purely for all the "indulgent" things that was in it.

    I am lucky that I can have a vegetable here, It's very hard on my ME keeping a garden but I try to give myself a time limit of 10- 15 mintues and I try to do everything carefully so as not to use too much energy, as in sitting down in the garden to weed instead of bending or squatting etc.

  • alex3619 July 26, 2013, 3:21 pm

    The reason for the costs associated with food banks here is that they have basic functions fully funded and are not themselves reliant on charity, though I think many of the workers there are volunteers. They have large walk-in freezers, and trucks to go get food from somewhere. This costs money, though not a lot. Some of the church charity groups do seem to be a bit more like the Canadian experience though, but they are small, scattered, and not organized.

  • golden July 26, 2013, 3:24 pm
    Jody

    It is, isn't it Ema. I couldn't agree more. I have been fortunate to be able to move on to a more "normal" life, the prospect of future days or weeks without food is no longer the start to my day. But I know it's the case for so many, and that often it would take so little to make a huge change in their lives.

    Where are the philanthropists and benefactors? Where are the champions? For that matter, in many cases — where are the families of these sick, starving people? There are families that ignore the plight of some of their own because … why? because it's inconvenient? because it is too uncomfortable to imagine what they're dealing with or to go see them and find out? This makes me furious, makes me want to weep and tear things down.

    I am an only child . I only had my parents. They had their own problems which I tried to support them with.

    Ignorance in society and medics compounds these problems. There really was total denial I was unwell.

    As for becoming homeless – I called it traveling. When my tent got too much , I got a lighter tent. When that got too much I got a Tarp :)

    I met some very nice people and there was an aura of serenity during it.

    :)

  • golden July 26, 2013, 3:35 pm

    p.s. we can look fairly well , are relatively positive, i didnt smoke , drink or take drugs… needed healthful foods…

    there really isnt any meaty problem to address! Also , i will not become subservient to people. Thats an issue for people who specifically target the 'needy ' for maximum payback in desperate thanks.

  • rosie26 July 26, 2013, 8:55 pm

    MeSci

    I don't drive, so always found it a real struggle carrying heavy things as it sets the inflammation off.

    I don't know if you have one of these but I bought one of those shopping trolleys with wheels you see the elderly ladies with, about two months ago. I bought a really nice pink/crimson one and I just love it.

    Mum said to me a couple of years ago "your too young to have one of those" (I am turning 50 this year) but having had ME and the struggles I have had carrying things, I thought "I just don't care, I am buying one" .

    And it has been fantastic, I notice people looking at me and they give me a nice smile. I feel very confident with it and I am noticing I think some more ladies my age with them. Wish I had bought one years ago. :)

  • Hope123 July 26, 2013, 9:31 pm

    With the ME/CFS, I don't have much in the way of food restrictions and I am fortunate enough to have adequate resources to be able to buy the same things I did pre-CFS. But I do know about poverty and hunger having grown up poor on government benefits/ food banks and then later volunteering and donating to food banks.

    Where I live, the food banks have guidance on their websites and I would advise people to check them out if you are in a position to donate. Some say if you can, MONEY is better than giving them goods. That way, they can buy things like fresh fruit and veggies, food that is familiar to the people they serve (we got a lot of peanut butter growing up; as our family isn't US-originated, we had no idea what to do with it and it went to waste), and furthermore, get a bigger bank per buck by buying bulk foods than you ever can individually. Also, some food banks give out stuff like diapers and formula that people don't think about donating but that are often needed.

    And PLEASE do check them out if you need help. The places I volunteered at pre-illness: the volunteers came from all types of backgrounds (poor, rich, educated, not educated, etc.) and so did the people needing help. No one was judgmental and it's true, all types of people need help that you wouldn't expect if you just saw them on the street. This includes the elderly, students, single parents, un/ underemployed people, sick people, etc.

    For US residents, if you can get to a farmers' market, some now take the SNAP debit card.
    Put your Zip code in, select the farmer's market button, and find out which one is near you. Some websites specifically will say they take SNAP while for others, you can call to find out. If you go towards the end of the market day, there are deals to be had.
    http://www.localharvest.org/

    We're eating less meat in our household for health reasons and that definitely cuts down on grocery bills; also avoiding the middle market aisles of processed foods cuts down the bill.

    This website is no longer active but still might be useful:
    http://cheaphealthygood.blogspot.com/

    BTW, Rosie, you can tell your Mum that those "shopping carts" are used by fashionable young people/ families with kids, men, etc., not just the elderly, in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles at famers markets especially when they don't want to drive and want to take say the subway instead. There are companies that make modern good looking ones with all types of designs.

  • rosie26 July 26, 2013, 10:49 pm

    Hope123

    That's great it is fashionable there.
    I try to look really "cool" with it here, the shopping trolley that is. So hope it catches on. 😀 x

  • Little Bluestem July 26, 2013, 10:55 pm
    MeSci

    I don't know whether food banks in the US have similar rules to those in the UK, but here we can only donate packaged food.

    US food banks only accept food in unbreakable packaging. I think there are two reasons for this.
    1) Packaged food does not need refrigeration, either by the food bank or the recipient.
    2) Packaged cannot be tampered with.

    I thought Jody was wanting to see more protein, fruits, and vegetables among the packaged food.

    When the local grocery store was collecting donations for the local food bank, they were collecting both food items and money for fresh food vouchers.

  • Little Bluestem July 26, 2013, 11:04 pm
    Hope123

    For US residents, if you can get to a farmers' market, some now take the SNAP debit card.
    Put your Zip code in, select the farmer's market button, and find out which one is near you. Some websites specifically will say they take SNAP while for others, you can call to find out. If you go towards the end of the market day, there are deals to be had.
    http://www.localharvest.org/

    Some farmers' markets charge people with SNAP cards half price. This is definitely worth checking out if you have a SNAP card.

  • taniaaust1 July 27, 2013, 12:49 am

    This was such a great original article.. thanks, it really did express how things are so well for many of us.

    "The problem with the food bank was that most of the food was processed, high carb, lots of bread, bagged noodles, boxed noodles with powdered sauces, boxes of cereal, potatoes, rice … None of which I can safely eat. "

    Ive found above to be the case too. I have severe insulin issues and nearly are a diabetic who's issues cant be controlled well with diet (my blood tests are getting worst and worst), the worst thing I could do is eat more carbs.

    The country town which Ive recently moved away from had nothing in the way of help for people needing food except to go to one of local churches and beg for help. Im not christian but twice I went to the church and did that but never did again cause it was useless.

    They'd give me a tiny little box and it was completely filled with things I couldnt use.. pasta, porriage (I can eat it due its carbs) rice, tea bags, sugar, coffee, biscuits .. with maybe two or three things in the whole lot I could eat eg 4 eggs, a can of soup, a can of carrots and peas. No meat (I dont think there was even tuna in it or spam in that food lot), no fresh veg at all. The effort I had to go to (numerous phone calls, sharing my sob story and then going to the place) for just a few eggs and a can of soup.. well wasnt worth it.

    IF I was able to get to the next town to a government agency and have a appointment and fill out a ton of paperwork on my situation (they'd go throu your bills etc), then I could 2-3 times per year get a voucher thing which allowed me to get food up to a certain amount at the supermarket in a shop. (They'd also pay some bills which in turn then you could use the money you would of had to spend on your bills to shop).

    anyway..that was the only options .. oh other then salvos could also bring one a hamper a few times. (included tuna but once again.. more then two thirds of the things I couldnt eat.

    At xmas.. the Freemasons would give me a HUGE food hamper (that one had a whole chicken and other things in theirs.. but once again, biscuits, chocolates, pop tarts and all yummy things..cause it was a xmas hamper.. Anyway, their hamper with all the things I couldnt eat.. I used to wrap those up and use them for my christmas presents to give others.. so it was very helpful to me still.. t i was so so grateful for the big chicken (i'd would arrive frozen) and the other things I could eat in their hamper i used to get once a year.

    Cause of the situation of no food bank where I lived… I grow what I could.. very simple growing things to help supplement my diet. Im still doing that now and right now have a cauliflower ready to be picked. Things like tomatoes, broad beans can be very easy to grow. If growing veg is too hard.. grow herbs like parsely and have with scrambled eggs to get some more nutrition.
    …………..

    I once went to a food bank with my sister .. and noticed that lots of food was rotten (so that experience was similar to alexs). The bread was so stale it was more like week old bread. One was better off buying the sales things at the supermarket.

  • MeSci July 27, 2013, 4:53 am
    caledonia

    I've started a permaculture garden in my backyard so I can grow my own organic food – can't afford it otherwise.

    Brilliant – way to go! Trouble is, even permaculture requires some energy to maintain, doesn't it? I used to grow quite a lot of veg but stopped because I didn't have the time and energy to spare – I had/have to use it all trying to earn a little money. I am now growing things that are very low-maintenance, e.g. apples, blackcurrants, and trying to grow gooseberries but not much luck with fruit so far! Plus Chinese bramble but no fruit yet. There are also wild strawberries, wild raspberries, wild blackberries and wild salad leaves (e.g. cornsalad and garlic mustard) growing in the area, which I pick when I see them. All organic of course! Am going to try growing lettuce and cucumber in my new conservatory. The key thing is to be able to maintain and pick the crops without having to bend or crouch.

    Freshly-picked food is much more tasty and nutritious.

  • MeSci July 27, 2013, 5:06 am
    rosie26

    MeSci

    I don't know if you have one of these but I bought one of those shopping trolleys with wheels you see the elderly ladies with, about two months ago. I bought a really nice pink/crimson one and I just love it.

    Mum said to me a couple of years ago "your too young to have one of those" (I am turning 50 this year) but having had ME and the struggles I have had carrying things, I thought "I just don't care, I am buying one" .

    And it has been fantastic, I notice people looking at me and they give me a nice smile. I feel very confident with it and I am noticing I think some more ladies my age with them. Wish I had bought one years ago. :)

    Yes, I got one years ago – it's brilliant. I often see apparently able-bodied people struggling with shopping and I think – and sometimes say with a smile "You need one of these!" I think I detect a little envy in their faces…

    It's the association with age that puts people off, I think. But years ago no one had suitcases on trolleys; now it's common. Like you – I don't really care what people think as much as I did when younger. It's a case of – I need this, I want this, and I am having it and using it. :p It would be stupid not to just because people will think about you in a certain way – let them!

    If 'funky' designs were more widespread they might become the norm for people shopping on foot. Especially as bans on plastic carrier bags are being introduced.

  • MeSci July 27, 2013, 5:09 am

    By the way, someone told me about this site that sells short-dated UK food cheap:

    http://www.approvedfood.co.uk/

    I haven't used it but it is recommended by the finance expert Martyn Lewis so is presumably OK.

    Supermarkets throw away scandalous amounts of usable food. There is a movement called Freeganism in which people scavenge from supermarket and restaurant skips and so get perfectly-good food for nothing.

  • golden July 27, 2013, 5:40 am

    I was going to mention the fine art of skipping :)

    That food site is very helpful thanks MeSci – some ok pet foods.

    Forraging can also be pleasant. There maybe a local Forraging group around too …