For survival needs of any kind you can think of, food is a priority. You don’t last long without food and everyone understands that, but lets go a bit beyond the obvious and lets see how hunger affects people, even when you’re not the unfortunate person that can’t put food on the table.
The basics for Survival
Air is important. You’ll die without it in 3 minutes, but it’s as plentiful as it gets. Exposure kills you quick too, but in today’s overpopulated world, its an odd situation where you find yourself away from urban structures or some sort of shelter. Even during complicated times, a friend or relative may put a roof over your head. You can move back to your parent’s “guest room”, you can count on an uncle, a cousin. Here, families got together to split households expenses, young adults with their families have moved back to their parents. It’s not strange to hear about three, sometimes even four generations living in the same house. Water is important too and while not as plentiful as air, its still abundant and cheap enough. But food…
Why should you stock up Food
Food isn’t as plentiful, nor is it cheap. A friend staying home, he can drink all the water he wants, use a bed or couch, breathe all the air he wants, but food… another mouth to feed has an impact in your budget. Combine high unemployment with inflation, and after a while you have people that just can’t make it to the end of the month. There’s already a fair amount of unemployment in USA. You don’t want to know what its like when a) it doubles b) inflation triples the prices. That’s what happened here.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before a couple times already, but one of the toughest things I’ve witnesses here after the crisis was people eating out of the trash. Its an image most of us have seen before, someone looking like a bum dumpster diving and munching on an old sandwich, but this is different.
Up until then, I had never seen entire families sitting around an opened garbage bag as if it were a dinner table. Husband, wife and a couple little kids, all skinny, wearing well worn but clean clothes, minding their manners and talking softly among them while they eat from the black trash bag. When you see this being done by people that don’t look that different from your own family, man does that change the perspective. Its similar to watching starving children. Its one thing to watch a starving kid half way around the world, speaking a different language, wearing different clothes. You of course feel empathy but you still feel it far away from you, it’s distant. Even if just watching it on TV, if instead that skinny child looks just like the kid that lives across the street, wears a L.A. Lakers tshirt and cries out “I’m hungry!” in perfect English while being interviewed by a reporter, that feels just too damn close. That was what happened here and still happens, we sort of got used to it, and you can see people walk by hungry kids begging for food in the better off downtown district, ignoring them completely as if they were ghosts. You get used to seeing people beg, happens in every big city, but you just know when a skinny little kid is genuinely begging for food because he’s hungry. Can you blame those that hurry past them? Not really. I understand how hard it is to even look at them. “Soul-clenching” describes the feeling well. Even if hungry, you don’t give these kids money. You never know if there’s a grownup nearby working them. What I do if I can is buy them a sandwich and something to drink. In the Capital district there’s enough small stores to feed the office yuppies and cubicle slaves every 10 yards or so, so it just takes a minute. You don’t fix the world, but you do something good for a child that desperately needs it.
Feeling systematically hungry is described as an awful sensation. The longest I’ve gone without eating was 3 days. Thankfully not because I was lacking anything, I just wanted to know how it felt. I stopped the little experiment because I was feeling dizzy and didn’t trust myself driving anymore. As hungry a it felt, I knowing I had a fridge full of food made all the difference in the world. People that go hungry for real can hardly think of anything else, its in your mind all the time. Diego Maradona is better known for his ability playing soccer but what I remember most about him is something he mentioned once about growing up in a poor family in the Bs. As. suburbs. He said that his mother and father would often lie at dinner time, saying they already ate somewhere else or that they weren’t feeling well. The truth was that they didn’t have enough food for all of them.
Hunger has not only affected people that have lost it all like the people living in the streets, but also people that used to be poor/lower middle class before the crisis.
We were once having dinner over at a friend’s house, there was some other people invited that I didn’t know. One woman kept complimenting the food, how good it was. When involved in conversation, she seemed to talk mostly about food as well. I’ve read that people involved in disasters or war often talk about the food they’d like to eat, watch pictures of it in magazines and imagine themselves eating it. My grandmother lived though the Spanish civil war. She told me she would stare into the bakery store’s displays from the sidewalk and wish she could eat what she saw. They were farmers but farming alone doesn’t provide the plethora of food some people seem to believe, specially not during hard times such as recessions or like in my grandmother’s case, civil war.
After we ate, the woman timidly asked the house owners if they minded if she took the leftovers. They of course said yes, there’s not much doubt between feeding the leftovers to the dog or giving them to a friend that just asked for them. When its because of a disaster, natural or man-made, you can at least tell yourself that its not your fault, your dignity is spared. When it’s because of poverty, you have to add to the hunger the humiliation of not being able to provide for your family and yourself, and this may well be the worst part. You can’t provide for them, yet others can. It’s a cruel example of “survival of the fittest” but this is what happens when the economic bar for poor/middle class/rich is set up higher and some people just don’t make it.
While starving to death is extreme and only happens in fewer numbers, going hungry affects millions. Its estimated that 9 million children are hungry in Argentina. For most of them, the school provides the only meal they will eat that day. For dinner they have tea or mate, go to bed feeling hungry urging for the next day’s meal.
Even among the middle class, lots of things have changed. In a nation well known for its beef, few people can routinely buy beef. Fish has always been terribly expensive and its not getting any better since the president owns the fishing business. Chicken used to be fairly cheap but not any more, and pork is slowly getting more and more expensive. Argentines in general eat 19% less meat than last year, mostly due to the 75% increase in price during the same period.
Because of the crisis and the political measures taken by the leftists running the country, a small handful starve to death each day, millions go hungry and even more have had to change their food habits, buying more affordable products, often of less quality. You can see this all day at the supermarkets. What impresses me the most is old people buying bags of bones which used to be sold for dogs, they buy these to make stews, scrap any meat or fat they may have left.
These are some of the things I’ve noticed. Some are more dramatic than others but there’s no doubt that food is terribly important. My objective here was to put a face to the food issue, why its important and how it may change your life if you don’t take it seriously.
Take care people.