Full Moon Rising

Full Moon Rising
Silent Cove. Chance Harbour NB - My back yard.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Foodies and Poverty

The following is a quote taken from google search on the definition of Foodie:

"A foodie is a person who loves or has a deep admiration for food and eating food. Does not neccesarily have to be fat, but likes eating. They might feel happy or very at peace when being around food."

Although the title sounds dark and depressive, I want to say that I will try my best, for the most part to add a dash or pinch of dark humour here and there. So starting right off with the above quote I'd like to say that I think it's funny, in a dark kind of way. I would think that we ALL have a love for food on one level or another and in that definition of what a Foodie is makes it sound like there is a group of people who are set apart from everyone else when it comes to food. To quote my husband Eric, (insert scarcasim), "I am a water connoisseur. Or, I am a fresh air connoisseur!"

Are we not all foodies? Isn't every living thing a foodie? Like bugs, they like to eat, they live to eat! Since we need food to survive and can't live without it, I'd say it's a really good thing that eating food is a pleasure and not a pain.  More than not when we have food set before us we take in a visual delight. It makes us feel good and after injesting that delight, we find ourselves feeling satisfied, happy and yes maybe peaceful, just like a Foodie.

There is also one distinctive difference between a self professed Foodies and a patron of the Food Bank and the difference is a Foodie just wants to interact with food for the fun of it. A patron of the Food Bank needs that food to semi-survive. I say semi-survive because one can't depend on the food bank to feed them more than once a month during summer months and twice a month during winter months. Each visit enough food is given to last only one week and to be clear that is not 3 squares a day for 7 days. Not meals as we would think but more like grazing and one would be lucky to have the food hold out for a whole week. Where just about anyone who wants to call themselves a foodie can do so, not everyone can say they frequent a food bank, lets face it, who would want to.

 I thought it might be interesting to take a small look into a day in the life of  what I'd like to call a Foodie Banker. Definition of Foodie Banker: 'A self professed Foodie who frequents food banks.' This is very possibly the future of Foodies if this trend of poverty continues to grow. So consider the phrase Foodie Banker coined by yours truly, you seen it hear first.  The following story is in part based on a true story. You the reader can decide what parts you think are true or not! I'm never going to tell!


To begin, let's say a so called, self professed Foodie has a few unfortunate turns in his finances. Then, one day he finds that the cupboards and refridgerator are empty and so is his wallet. He has no choice but to go to a food bank.  He is suddenly overcome with embarrassment, humiliation, dread, hunger,..then, fear. He then feels a panic he's never known before, and it's paralyzing. He starts hyperventilating when the realization hits him, he is....poor.


Our guy finally gets in contact with the local community services and the voice on the other end gives him instructions on how to establish himself with the local food bank in his area. His first stop was the church associated with the food bank. As he enters the church through a side door he steps into what is called the hall where things like bake sales are held. The room held a lot of long tables covered with bags of day old bread, rolls and tea bisquits from a local bakery. A priest appears through another set of doors and greets him with a smile, welcomes him and tells him to help himself to as much as he wants. He first registers at another table by showing a middle aged woman his identification. She hands him back a slip of paper that he is instructed to present to the food bank. He very shyly approaches the tables of bread and helps himself to 4 loaves of flax seed bread. He keeps his head down as he leaves the church and gets to his car tossing the 4 loaves in the back seat. He then drives to the food bank several blocks away.


Our guy finds the street and then sees what must be the building of the food bank. There are a lot of people hanging around in small groups talking and waiting. Some stand alone against the wall with their heads down, seemingly deep in thought. Our guy parks his car, gets out, locks it and feeling apprehension slowly walks toward the door of the building.

He steps through the door into a dimly lit room where there are more people waiting. People turn and look and heads go up and at least a dozen pairs of eyes stare at him as he steps inside. They hold their stares with expressionless faces and he feels his face turning red and wonders why they are staring. He looks to the right and sees a small hallway with a doorway that is closed and two men leaning on either side of it.

In front of him is a staircase with about half dozen people sitting on the stairs. He looks to the left where he sees a long counter where several women are packing up bags of food. Behind the women is a large room that hold many shelves lined with canned and boxed food. Our guy approaches the counter and hands his paper to one of the women. She takes it without so much as a glance at him and quickly places it with a bunch of other similar looking papers.

"Bags." she says, "Excuse me?" he says, She raises her head and gives him a deadpan stare and again in a flat voice says, "Bags, where are your grocery bags?" Our guy stammers and feels a panic rising as he realizes he has no 'bags'. "Umm I guess I didn't think to bring any, I..I...I didn't know.", She plants both her hands on the counter, leans forward ,and looks at him over the top of her glasses and in a flat voice says,"Next time bring your own bags." "Yes Mame...sorry bout that." he mumbled. Her eyes, never leaving his face, hands him a tickett and then turns and walks away. He looks down at the tickett and sees written in black marker #49. Keeping his head down and trying to not make eye contact with anyone he shoves his hands in the front pockets of his jeans and slowly starts to wander around the room.

He is feeling awkward and self conscious when he sees two wooden tables holding cans and boxes of food. A small sign taped to the edge of the table read,"Help yourself", He approaches the table and sees a lot of canned beans, olives and chick peas. He ponders the cans in front of him and the foodie in him decides he may find some use for some beans and olives, especially the olives, he has a recipie he could use them in.

Suddenly just knowing he can use those olives made everything seem a bit easier, kinda gave him hope. So he scoops up 2 cans of beans and 2 cans of olives and cradles them in one arm. He then steps over to the next table. It holds several bottles of generic shampoo, two tubes of toothpaste, one bar of cashmere face soap and several paper back novels. He eyes the shampoo and toothpaste and thinks to himself that he won't be needy long enough to run out of his own shampoo and toothpaste and in his belief he won't be returning a second time to the food bank and that this nightmare will be over before that happens. He finds an empty spot on the wall at the end of the room devoid of people and leans against it holding his cans of beans and olives against his chest and begins waiting.

He stares at the floor not wanting to make eye contact with anyone. After a mintue or so without lifting his head he slowly raises his eyes and takes in the scene before him. Other than himself there are about 12 other people waiting for their orders and another 20 or so outside. He looks at the people sitting on the stairs that lead to somewhere else, most are not engaging in any conversation but, staring off into space, apparently bored and tired. He thinks to himself how everyone here looks tired. It was as if something had snuffed all the life out of them. One 50ish slightly balding man sits on the second stair from the bottom. He has both feet planted squarely on the floor,  he leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees, clasps his hands together, drops his head down and stares into the floor. Our guy stares intently at the man, watching his face and wonders how long he has been frequenting the food bank and of where the man's thoughts are and what his story is. Nobody was noticing our guy any longer which made him feel more comfortable somehow and he found himself relaxing a little.

                                                STANDOFF AT THE FOOD  BANK

About 25 minutes into his wait our guy finds himself staring into the floor and his thoughts drifting to what he would prepare for supper, using those olives. He just needed a few things and he hoped that he would find them in his food bank order. He began day dreaming of green and red peppers, baby carrots and mushrooms. 'Yes', he thought to himself 'A nice stir fry and cream sauce poured over a bed of savory rice. And the 'pop' of the ingrediants would be those olives.' 

Lost in his delectable day dream, a soft smile forms on his face when several more people came through the door breaking his trance, causing him to jump, which then caused 3 of the four cans that he held against his chest to slide out from under his arm. One can landed on it's end. The other two rolled off in different directions. He found one resting against the leg of a table. He then turned to see where the other can had rolled off to when he spyed a little girl of about 3 years of age running and giggling across the room. She came to stop in front of an elderly woman sitting in a straight back chair. The can of olives lay besides the woman's feet. With her big blue eyes the little girl looked up into the face of the old woman. The woman looked down at the child. A huge smile started to spread across the little girls face and a slow small smile started to grow on the face of the old woman. "Sweet little angel" said the woman, and then leaned  forward, reached down and picked up the can and held it out to the child.

Our guy is still taking in the scene from across the room watching the interchange with his can of olives. Then the little girl's chubby little hands reach out and take the can from the old woman. The child then giggles and turns and again runs back across the room with her hands out stretched in front of her, holding his olives. The child reaches the other side of the room and throws herself at another woman's knees. The can lands in the woman's lap. "Mommy!!" squeals the child. "What's this you've got?" asks the Mother. The Mother picks up the can, holds it up in front of her eyes and reads, "Olives". She looks back down at her daughter and says,"Good girl!" and hands the can back to the little girl. The little girl takes the can and turns to rest her back against her Mother's knees and proceeds to rock back and forth.

Our guy's eyes are on the can of olives when he looks to the child's face. She is looking straight at him. She is holding her tongue on one corner of her mouth and from beneath her brows watches him, expectantly, and all the while the can of olives rests in the crook of her arm.

Without thinking anything through our guy walks across the room and squats down in front of the child. He reaches for the can of olives, flashes a huge grin and says "Thank you for finding my olives!" His fingers pull on the can and the little girl tightens her arm, holding the can against her chest. "NO!!" she squeals, "But these are my olives" he says, "I dropped them over there", he half turns and points to where he'd been waiting. While still half turned his swings his head back around at the little girl. "Soooooo...can I have the can back??? Pul-eeease???", he asks. He once again flashes a cheesy grin and raises his eyebrows giving a hopeful expression. Her little mouth begins to form a pout and her big blue eyes bore into his face. Again he slowly raises his hand toward the can when it suddenly freezes midair when the child takes a deep breath filling the room with an ear piercing "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

All conversation in the room suddenly trailed off. An oppressive silence fills the room and our guy can feel all eyes boring into his back. The little girl's Mother quickly leans down and scoops her up in her arms and slowly backs away. Then a voice from behind him says,"What is your problem dude??? You trying to steal a can of food from a baby at the food bank??? Our guy brings himself to a standing position and slowly turns to face the voice behind him and finds himself staring into two faded denim breast pockets. He swallows hard as he raises his face to the angry voice. What stands before him is a wall of muscle. A very large man whose chest stood a mere 2 inches from his nose. He wore denim overhauls and a kerchief covered his bald head....and he wasn't smiling. "I will ask you one more time boy, what is your problem",

Our guy suddenly realizes what he's done or better yet, what he shouldn't of done. His mind is suddenly scrambling for his senses and his mouth goes dry and he can't speak. He trys to lick his lips and stammers "It was uh...just uh...well you see....the can of olives were...ummm...", a breathy half hearted laugh escapes him,"Not important! I don't need them!", The large man glares down at our guy and says, "Straight up you don't need them. Man what is wrong with your sorry ass?? I've heard of stealing candy from a baby, but a can of food??? Don't know what side of town ya'll are from but it isn't this side boy, I got a good mind to open a can on yo ass, a can of good old fashioned whoop-ass 'n' sees to it that ya'll be crawling back from where ya came from!", Before our guy can respond to save his life a booming voice from the back of the room yells, "Number 49!!", It is music to his ears. He looks at his near death experience standing in front of him and says, "I'm sorry, I am really sorry and I'm taking my sorry ass out of here right now." He quickly turns on one heel and makes a bee line for the counter. Every pair of eyes is still watching him. Some are glaring at him, some are laughing and some look entertained. And they were for the most part entertained making our guy become a household story that would be talked about around the dinner tables for a long time to come. The stories would all go something like..."There was this guy once down at the food bank and he tried to steal a can of food from a baby!" I find it ironic that despite our guy's intent on keeping a low profile that he in fact became the main attraction. For whatever it was worth, he left a lasting impression.


Sadly for our guy he never did get to make his stir fry. Upon arriving home with his groceries he unpacked all three bags one at a time, and the more items he pulled from the bags the more dismayed he became. He stood back and eyed what was to be his sustenance for the next week.

There was two boxes of noname macaroni and cheese dinner where one was 9 years past it's expiry date, the other 4. Two loaves of half frozen enriched white bread. Half a dozen of partialy frozen cracked eggs. A small bread bag with a handful or so of frozen french fries and another used bread bag with half a dozen small potatoes. There was several small sandwich baggies that held powdered milk, sugar and instant coffee. There was a whole bag of elbow macaroni and one can of noname pasta sauce along with a can of stewed tomatoes, a small jar of noname peanut butter, a small tub of noname margarine, two cans of heinz tomato soup and one can of campbell's vegetable soup, a can of corn nibblits, a can of peas, 3 cans of beans, a bag of noname brown rice, one pound of frozen hamburger and a badly dented can of fat free coconut milk. Oh, and the 4 loaves of bread from the church? 3 of the 4 ended up in the garbage due to blue mold.

Our guy sat back in his chair and eyed his ware. Dread started to fill him when he realized if his financial situation didn't change soon that his days of calling himself a Foodie would come to an end. Suddenly he felt an overwhelming sense of hoplessness and he felt something else too....he felt tired, very tired. He stood up from his chair and speaking aloud to noone but himself he said. " I'm just going to take my sorry ass to bed." And he did.

Unless our guy's situation changes he is only weeks away from becoming a client of the Social Services Department or as the slang term that still gets tossed around...."a welfare recipient." He would be joining another approximately 43,000 other households on income assistance in the Province of New Brunswick which has a population of approximately 750,000 people. Upon reading these numbers I couldn't help but want the percentage. It works out to 5.7%. Now this number of the population only covers households on income assistance. It doesn't include the elderly living on small pensions in poverty or the working poor or the disabled nor students attending university and lets not forget the homeless. If the math continued to include all people living in poverty I don't think I want to know the true numbers because at 5.7  in itself is bad enough.

To be fair to the food banks, they exsist strictly on donations to run the buildings and keep food in stock. There are no donations from the Provincial nor Federal Governments. Even the people that run the food banks are strictly volunteers. They don't have much to work with and do the best they can. For the patrons that recieve food from the food banks, at times the pickings are lean and basic necessity is barely covered...... makes one wonder what would happen to those people if not for the food banks. Now that is indeed a dark thought.


As I sit at my kitchen table wrapping up the closing of this writing I pause from time to time by turning my head to the right and gaze out through the window. At first,my eyes take in our little cove. And sitting just on the outer edge of the cove is Crow Island, and beyond that the wonderful Bay of Fundy. The bay holds the highest tides in the world and is a natural wonder of nature's force and beauty. The phrase 'Bounty From The Sea' comes to mind as the bay and the ocean certainly hold a bounty of food for many living things on this planet, including us. There are still many people who still fish the bay to make their living. Many live right here in my community. They've had coffee at my kitchen table and yarned tails of the sea. They work hard and play hard. They are a happy lot. Salt of the earth kind of people.Through them, the true masters of the sea, we are slowly learning how to care for her.

Just today they announced in the news that the numbers for the Right Whale are skyrocketing, right here in our own backyard in a manner of speaking. Making a few adjustments to the locations of shipping lanes has meant their survival from extinction. It's a celebration of life! We humans need something to celebrate, maybe something not found in an ideal world but in the real world, ending poverty and hunger in this, the 21st century. As a child we were told to believe that when we became adults that there would be flying cars, people would work less having more days off than on and that we would be so far advanced than our ancestors that not one person would ever want for anything. They were wrong.

Until the next high tide..........Natalie.