Thursday, December 6, 2012

Poverty and Ichiban Noodles

I am very proud of our local chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association for their honesty about what they need our town to bring to stock their Christmas food hampers.  This year they came right out and said that they are hoping for far less ichiban noodle soup packs because they always get overstocked with this less than nutritious food.

I find it so interesting that the minds of the un-poor are completely convinced that people who suffer from poverty to the point of needing community assistance in order to eat will be delighted to discover a plethora of packs of tasteless iciban noodle soup in their hampers.  Apparently they will be equally delighted to find bags of discount pasta and the cheapest available, salt filled, spaghetti sauces. This I know from personal experience from my own days of requiring outside help to feed my family.

Now that I am in a position to donate to groups who help the hungry I want to be generous in my donations and in the quality of my donations.  People who can't feed themselves are all ready living on a full diet of ichiban noodle soup mixes, discount pasta, and the cheapest available, salt filled, spaghetti sauces.  If I am donating canned goods I want to be donating healthier items people on low incomes can not usually afford to buy.  I want to donate money toward vouchers for produce and meat.  

It breaks my heart when I overhear some of the people who donate to food hampers.  The words and attitude seem to indicate that the donors feel that the poor don't deserve the best, they only deserve whatever discount foods can be found so the donor can pat herself on the back and say she helped the poor, but without any sort of consideration of the nutritional value of the donation or about the possibility of sacrificing a bit of extra cash for the cause.

To be fair, the un-poor don't realize the true food needs of the hamper recipients.  How many of us think about it in depth while we choose our donations?  Why would we if we have never experienced a need ourselves for a food hamper?  How many of us take time to think about helping the donnees maintain their personal dignity? How many of us would understand how the lack of proper nutrition effects not only hungry tummies but the ability to sleep, the ability to then attempt to function to the highest level throughout the day, when we are not suffering ourselves?  It is difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of people whose lifestyles are so very different from anything we ourselves have experienced.

Even having "been there, done that" myself in times past, I don't always think first and foremost about people who are still trapped in my old cycle of "working poor" poverty.  What I read this morning about our local CMHA and its requests concerning its Christmas food hampers has my mind back on track about putting the needs of others foremost, particularly at this season of the year, but throughout the coming year as well.

My attention has been jerked back to the reality too many people are now facing.  The honesty of our local CMHA has chastised me heartily and needfully.  Next week there is going to be a shopping spree and a cash donation from our house to the CMHA for their hampers.

As much as I would like to forget a huge portion of my own life, I can't let myself forget because it impacts my assistance to others in the same position.


Heidi said...

Thanks so much for sharing this Sue! We too have been in the position of having to be on the receiving end of this sort of hamper....and I agree that they should be given more than what they already eat regularly! Thanks for the reminder!

Susan said...

Yeah, I don't mean to diss anyone's heartfelt contribution to food hampers, but it is so nice to get something nutritious when you are used to eating on the cheap. I learned so much when I had to live on them.

Heidi said...

I agree, not meaning to say anything bad about people's donations:).