What’s for dinner?

by

Michael, our BSW student, recently found himself thinking about how people might use the food we share each day.   This is what he had to say:

Photo via flickr user Nena B.

On a weekly basis the Emergency Food Hamper program will normally hand out hundreds of food hampers. The program relies on donations that go up and down and thus has to adjust the amount each family receives based on what is available and how busy they expect to be. This constant change can make it difficult to tailor to each program participant’s food requests. Allergies, family food preferences and varying culinary skills often have to be balanced with what is on hand.  Putting myself in the shoes of someone receiving a food hamper for one person, and using my normal diet and food preferences, I wonder how long could I make a food hamper last?

Today, if I got a hamper, breaking it down into three meals a day, and stretching it over three days would be difficult to accomplish.

Let’s start at the beginning.  This is what I have to work with:

  • 1 frozen bag of 5 chicken nuggets
  • Some sausages
  • 5 lbs. of potatoes
  • 8 oatmeal cereal pouches
  • 1 can of mushroom soup
  • 1 can of uncooked vegetables
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 Kraft Dinner box
  • 1 small bag of raw mushrooms
  • 1 can of tuna
  • 1 fruit cup
  • 1 can of pork and beans
  • 1 stick bread
  • 1 box of shortbread cookies
  • 1 1.3 L bottle of Sunny D beverage
  • 1 500 g Egg Creation carton
  • 1 small bag of frozen vegetables
  • 2 100g cups of yogurt
  • 3-4 pepperettes
  • 1 680g Heluva Good sour cream dip

Now, on to breakfast.

Normally I enjoy a bowl of cereal after I wake up. There are instant oatmeal pouches in the hamper but no milk to pour on it. The 1.3 litre Sunny D bottle would be good for breakfast but would not last me longer than three or four meals. A breakfast staple for me would be a cup of coffee, something that is frequently requested but that we rarely have to give out. I like scrambled eggs so the 500 grams of Egg Creation, which is a carton of egg whites, along with the onion and mushrooms I received, would last me about two breakfasts. I would also consume one of the two yogurt cups.

Moving on to lunch I could try to eat my one box of Kraft Dinner or maybe warm up the can of soup. Hopefully, if I wasn’t very thirsty from the morning, some Sunny D will be left over. Seeing as I am not terribly handy in the kitchen, warming up soup or making Kraft Dinner is maxing out my current culinary skills. If I didn’t have an oven,these foods, along with the can of vegetables, would be almost pointless. Future lunches would probably involve having to eat a can of beans in sauce which is not a favourite of mine, along with a can of tuna. Good thing I have a reliable can opener!

Finally, supper time would involve my cooking the five or six chicken nuggets and maybe half of the sausages I received. The crusty stick bread would also be on my dinner menu since it’s already a little on the stale side, and I would round it out with steaming some of the five pounds of potatoes.

Examining what is left in my hamper what would I do if a friend dropped by for a unexpected visit?  I would offer him or her a pepperette or two and maybe some leftover sausage. Not exactly ideal stuff for entertaining casual visitors. Also, it wouldn’t last very long and I really need to save it for the next few days. How about putting out some uncooked potatoes, mushrooms, and sour cream dip? Again, not really ideal. In reality I would probably not offer them anything, as I would be too embarrassed to admit that I was having a food emergency. If my friend provided me with food the last time I visited them, it would be a very awkward time together.

So, I’ve made it a day.  Not many leftovers remain.  If I want to stretch it out for another 2 days I have to start making some big compromises. I would find it very challenging and stressful to limit myself to just three meals a day.  There is not a lot of room for snacks and I’ve polished off most of my hamper in just one day.  I would have to carefully portion out the leftovers for lunch and supper and likely have to scrape by on day three with some of the frozen vegetables, a sausage if I have one left and maybe some pepperettes.  Not really an inspiring menu and not great fuel for a full day of school or work.  And all of this is assuming that after a stressful day or two of trying to sort out what and how much I should eat, I wouldn’t snack on something one day and have little left for the following day or two.  It’s not something I really want to think about too much, yet it’s a daily struggle for more than a hundred families each day walking through our doors.

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