Sunday, 9 March 2014

End Hunger Fast - Week 1

When I first heard about End Hunger Fast, I thought long and hard about joining Keith Hebden and Simon Cross in fasting for forty days and nights. Like many people I am horrified that so many individuals and families are struggling to put food on the table, due to the coalition government's appalling welfare policies. So I was immediately attracted to the idea of fasting in solidarity with people who are hungry, to raise awareness of the issues. But, after careful consideration, I realised that a) I am not mentally and physically prepared for it and b) my life is too busy to fast safely. Instead, I decided that along with a friend from church, I will join the fast once a week. And, after a further conversation with Rick from the WOW Petition - and in keeping with the original intention of this blog - I have decided to remember a victim of welfare cuts each time I do so.

I was planning to begin on Friday. But on Ash Wednesday I realised since were we going away for the weekend it would be better to start immediately. This was not the wisest move. I have never fasted before, and I was not prepared at all. By mid-morning my stomach was rumbling, by lunch-time the smell of food from the work kitchen was agonisingly tempting and when I returned home from the school run, it took a supreme effort not to stuff down all the food that in my kitchen cupboards. Cooking tea was equally hard, and I thought of how many mothers must be doing this on a regular basis, skipping meals to make sure their kids are fed. As the evening wore on, I became increasingly grumpy and miserable. In fact, the only thing that kept me going was seeing how well the EHF launch had gone and knowing that I could eat soon (whereas for Simon and Keith this was just the beginning). At 11pm, I decided to break my fast. I hadn't eaten for 24 hours, and it just felt masochistic to go to bed hungry. Though, as I chomped on my two slices of toast, I reflected that many in food poverty do not have the luxury.

One person who didn't have such luxury was Mark Wood who lived in Bampton,  Oxfordshire (in the Prime Minister's Witney constituency). Mark had mental health needs; when Atos found him fit to work, he was left with £40/week to live on, and was unable to pay his rent or utilities bills. Last August he starved to death. According to his doctor, “He was an extremely fragile individual who was coping with life.Something pushed him or affected him in the time before he died and the only thing I can put my finger on is the pressure he felt when his benefits were removed.” In other words, the welfare "reforms" of David Cameron's government were  a significant factor in the death of one of his constituents.

Unlike Mark, I am one of society's lucky people. I have my health, my home and enough money to feed myself and my family. Joining End Hunger Fast is my way of expressing my outrage about what happened to him, and is happening to too many other people.  Wednesday was hard, and I am not looking forward to my next fasting day. But as long as people are starving  or struggling with the stress of constant hunger, it is beholden on we lucky ones to do what we can. For if we don't, who will?

For further information on End Hunger Fast and to sign up to the national day of fasting on the 4th April please check out their website.

If you'd like to find out more about Keith and Simon's fasts you can read about them here and here.

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