In a country like Australia, (where so much wealth has been made very quickly from the stealing of Aboriginal land, and extraction of resources) it’s kind of mind-boggling that poverty still exists. It’s hard to believe that in a country where there’s 5 million tonnes of food waste each year, that people can still go hungry.
I can remember times in my childhood where my mum would work out the per kilo price for groceries in the supermarket, so we could get the cheapest item and try to make the little money we had go further. I can also remember when we did the maths wrong and the payment needed was more than we had, and so we’d have to decide at the register with a line behind us which items we’d put back. While it was kind of embarrassing, I think my experience of being poor was relatively easy, knowing other people who have faced bigger struggles for basic living needs. However, I think it’s also important to acknowledge these experiences of scarcity, and not let them be a silent part of our lives that we overcame, by having good luck with a job, or housing, or relationships.
These days, I work with an urban farm, which grows a variety of vegetables in people’s backyard to produce veggie boxes. The veggie boxes are then sold on a sliding scale, so that people of a diversity of financial circumstances can access local, organically grown fresh produce. All our members fill out a form at the start of the season, providing us with information about their household size, income, expenses among other things. We then assess these factors and recommend which of our five payment tiers seems appropriate for them. This way we can provide food for low income households, which is subsidised by higher income households.
Everytime we see our members, I feel so much gratitude towards them; that they believe in the importance of what we’re doing, that they’re willing to share details of their own lives with us, and that people are generous enough to help each other out (without even needing to know who these people are).
As we face further uncertainties in the world relating to climate breakdown, and economic instability – I hope that we can continue building community connections and support, across all kinds of differences. I think there is a lot of strength to be found in this diversity and care.
Written for the Right to Food Coalition by Karina Vennonen.