Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.
Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.
Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.
Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.
Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.
Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.
Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.
Being poor is knowing you’re being judged.
Imran Hussain, head of policy at the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "Jamie Oliver is right to say that healthy food doesn't always have to be expensive … but for many families it's low income which gets in the way of healthy eating."
Hussain added: "As official statistics show, parents of poor children are much less likely to be able to afford fresh fruit for their children. We also know from the evidence that as the incomes of poor families rise, they spend more on things like healthy food and children's clothes.
This vision of the Mediterranean poor, making delicious soup, salads and desserts with left over bread and eating simple cheap fresh food is deeply engrained in the Anglo food fan's mind. The desirability of cocina povera, authentic peasant food made by poor people who show great ingenuity with access to not very much but are able to create delicious meals out of three cheap ingredients has spawned a multi-million pound UK and US industry of "authentic" Spanish and Italian food books, TV programmes and chains of restaurants. They offer the food of the deserving poor, the ones who manage well on very little. They have very little but look how desirable their lifestyle is, the story goes, we middle classes want to be them, what has happened to our poor? Why can't they be more like, say, the Spanish?
The poor are already being far more like the Spanish than we realise. In 2010 in the province of Barcelona, an area with a population of less than five million, more than 100,000 people were forced to use food banks for basics like rice, oil, tins of tomatoes, baby milk and other staples from one of three charitable food bank groups.
To get to the Spanish 2010 level of food bank use, we'd need to have three times more users than we have at the moment, at least one million more working poor would need to access food banks to make us more like Spain. Recent reports of an ever increasing in the use of food banks may enable us to get those extra million users.
Churches and civic centres have also opened "social dining rooms" to give people in their neighbourhoods the chance of a hot meal at lunchtime. People who can't afford to heat food, or have had their electricity and gas cut off as they haven't been able to pay their bills turn up between 12 and 2pm to eat the only hot meal they will get that day. In 2012 380,737 meals were served to 10,423 users in Barcelona, a city with a population of 3 million.
Take the fact that most people entitled to benefits are actually in underpaid employment. Some people are working so hard that trying to think of what to make for dinner at the end of a long, busy day is just a mental step too far. As a study this week revealed, some people expend so much energy on immediate problems such as paying bills, and feel so much anxiety, it impairs their ability to deal with more complex tasks. As anyone who's been seriously skint will tell you, you don't always feel like bish, bash, boshing up a bechamel. Sometimes you don't feel like doing much of anything at all.
When I was on the dole in London, I put on a stone. In the city, the supermarkets are small and expensive, and there's less that you can afford to do outside of the house. Jamie is wrong about all junk food being dear, though – there aren't many other countries where you can buy a box of cakes for less than a quid, as you can here. The trip to the shops for Mr Kipling was the high point of my despondent little day, probably much like those cheesy chips were for that mum and child.
Also, the difference between rural and urban poverty is vast. We were poor when I was growing up, but I had a healthy diet not only because my mother (and her mother before her) had been taught to cook, but because we lived in the countryside. Local vegetables were cheap – cheaper than the £4 my mum would have spent on petrol to get to Tesco's. And she had the time to make the stew. My friends, whose turkey dinosaurs and tinned spaghetti hoops I desperately envied, mostly had working mums. It's no coincidence that the rise of the microwave meal overlapped with women entering the workplace. Why not try redressing the balance of domestic labour, or introducing proper childcare, before you tell women (it's almost always women) that they're not cooking properly? That they don't take enough joy from cooking?
Politicians and public figures invested in the narratives of scroungers and feckless single mums always fail to grasp the fluctuating nature of poverty. The poverty line may be a straight one, but people will dip above and below it depending on their circumstances, the level of basic comfort that they experience undulating like a wave, up and down, and up again. A couple of days on the job? Suddenly things seem that little bit brighter. Maybe we'll even buy a telly on credit! Housing benefit short? No tea for the kids, and we'll have to leave topping up the leccy for another night. And down again. It's called the "poverty trap" for a reason.
Cam: Fine. I will arrange an introduction to my sweater weaver.
Frasier: Good. Thank you.
Cam: But, then I must insist on the formula to your bath blend.
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