My heart feels a little bit broken today. It always feels that way when I speak to Kay Richardson of The Big Feed. A little bit fractured, torn... yet enriched and hopeful at the same time.
I'm not a parent but I do believe it is still my responsibility, every adult's responsibility, to make sure kids get fed as well as possible. If we dare to bring them into this world we owe them, at the very least, quality of life and a country, indeed a planet, that can provide real food and an education on how to choose, store, prepare and even grow it! It's pretty basic.
I only realised about 10 years ago that I am part of a minority in Australia. Now that sounds ridiculous I know - on both counts, I'm a bit slow perhaps. Of course we all understand on some level that there are people who live under very different circumstances, we hear about it on the news, read about it in the paper, maybe learn about it at school - but my life never really connected with "that" world. The world outside my safe, tiny bubble. None of us who live a 'fortunate' life really want to believe that there are parts of Australia (possibly only a suburb away, perhaps the house next door) where real food or any food at all is a luxury. It is frightening. And it should be.
I've travelled the world and eaten in fancy restaurants, I grew up in one of the wealthiest suburbs in Sydney - I had loving parents who fed me well and encouraged my enthusiasm for food and cooking from a young age. I've been successful in my career (which is heavily entrenched in food and food culture) and have great friends and a loving partner. I've been most fortunate in many, many ways - and have a sizeable arse to prove it (now that's another issue!)
One day a friend of mine was sharing a story about his company taking a group of underprivileged kids on a day out. They had a simple lunch of sandwiches yet the kids were completely blown away by what they were eating - they couldn't believe the 'feast' that was served to them. My friend, curious as to why a few sangers would gain so much attention, asked one of them what they normally ate at home. His reply was "red soup". "Do you mean tomato soup?" my friend asked. "No, its what's left in the pan when mum and dad eat the frankfurts". On hearing this story I felt like I had been kicked in the guts. I felt completely naive and more than a little bit blinkered. This information poked a pinhole in my dark, designer sunnies and allowed the light to pierce through my eyeballs into my brain. Fuck. Once the information was comfortably inside me it sat there like a cold stone in my belly and has remained there ever since.
Enter Kay Richardson. This astounding woman has many similar stories to tell. Too many. Only today she told me of a community in a country town where The Big Feed is helping out. Young, struggling mothers were paying what little money they had for supermarket "baby water" and pureed food in squeeze packs - unbelievably they had never been taught to mash a veggie. They had no idea it was more economical to feed their children by cooking seasonal fresh veggies, or that every child who consistently sucks on bags of puree in their formative years is not taught how to chew - leading to issues as they get older. And they certainly didn't realise that handing over that baggie meant that the child was missing out on interacting with their parent or carer during what are some of the most important, nurturing, intimate, connective moments in their childhood, in their lives. They were just feeding their kids the best way they knew how. But all that is changing now they are armed with information.
As I wrote this it occurred to me that, sadly, it isn't just those in lower socio-economic areas who raise their kids on processed food from the supermarket - and I'm not just talking about the odd occasion where convenience takes precedence for whatever reason... Perhaps a little off topic but nevertheless it is clear that many of us could do with more education when it comes to growing our children.
I can't think of anything more important to do in our time on earth than to feed and educate the children who enter it - clearly there is the matter of survival on a most basic level but ultimately we need to grow them into healthy, stable, empowered adults - who can continue the cycle - not only to feed their own kids but to teach them about food, and about what it takes to keep us and our planet healthy in that respect. Because without this basic education we are not well equipped to go about the business of doing everything else that makes the world go around.
Kay and the amazing folk at The Big Feed are tirelessly, relentlessly, selflessly doing whatever they can to foster change in our communities and they are starting with the kids. And it is a struggle. They need our help - whether it is a donation or simply helping them raise awareness on some level.
If you would like more information on how you can help, and it really doesn't take much, please head over to The Big Feed. You will be amazed at how much these guys have already done but they have big plans for the future and they need your support.
Even if you simply pass on The Big Feed's site details to your social media, friends or family - you are helping to feed our kids and the generations to come.
Do I feel guilty about the life I have lead. Honestly? Not really - that's just the scenario I was lucky enough to be born into and it would be pointless to start analysing my past, which cannot be changed, when time is of the essence and my energies are better utilised by helping to move things forward. If you connected with this post at all and have a few minutes spare I urge you to take a peek at The Big Feed. Even if you say the words out loud, or place them in your memory bank only to mention this special bunch of people to a friend over coffee - you could be doing something towards causing a shift in consciousness. And that is a good start.