Live Below the Line 2016: Day 4 Diary

Getting pretty bored of bean chilli now.
I must confess, I’m writing this on the last day of #fdbloggersBTL and I’m pretty flipping excited about the return to our normal eating habits tomorrow. My husband and I have been talking about what we’re going to eat over the weekend, and I think fairly near the top of our list is a big roast dinner with all the trimmings – yum. Of course, I know that this (being able to look forward to delicious food when it’s over) is what makes this challenge so much easier than the real thing – for more of my thoughts on that, check out yesterday’s diary post.

Today, I want to talk about something you might not have given much thought to. We’re all familiar with poverty levels in the third world, and most of us will have donated at some point to help those in need. Obviously, there’s a huge amount more to be done, and I’m not here to say that’s not incredibly important. However, I want to talk for a minute about some of poverty’s other disguises, and how it can turn up in the most unexpected places here in the UK. This morning, I read this article from the Huffington Post about who actually uses foodbanks in Britain, and to use a classic clickbait phrase, it’s not who you might think.

Benefit delays are the biggest reason foodbank users cite, and the second biggest group of users are those on a low income – so it’s not about supporting those who are too lazy or incompetent to get a job. PLEASE let’s kill off this awful, poisonous stereotype now. Low-income foodbank-users are not sitting around waiting for handouts – they’re working just as hard as everyone else, but for less money. And those receiving benefits are receiving them because they need them. Sure, there’s a percentage of fraud – that’s always going to be the case, it’s human nature. But the vast majority need support because they cannot work, or they can’t work enough. Forget generalisations and stereotypes, and for a moment imagine someone close to you, someone real, who works long hours at a soul-destroying job and still doesn’t get paid enough to put food on the table, or someone who is in too much pain to get out of the house, or is suffering through the very visceral, close and personal terror of mental illness.

Many of us are inclined to feel like our lives are pretty stable, but the truth is that your world can turn upside down in a moment. Illness, whether mental or physical, can strike anyone. It’s all too possible these days for jobs to disappear overnight. A small piece of bad luck can snowball until it’s unstoppable, destroying everything in its way. So it’s very important that we all stop thinking of those living in poverty as Them, over There – a separate group that has nothing to do with Us. The truth is that the poverty line is a very fine one, and it doesn’t take much to cross it.


Want to support us? Instead of asking you to donate money, we’re asking that you make a small change to your habits that can make a huge difference, and start donating regularly to your local food bank to help those in desperate need. It couldn’t possibly be easier, because most big supermarkets (including Tesco, Sainsbury's & Waitrose) now have a collection point, so all you have to do is put something extra into your trolley when you do your big shop. Keep an eye out next time you go, and do something small that has a big impact.