Monday: Day 1 of the challenge.
Yesterday was the first day of my Live Below the Line Challenge for Development in Gardening. It occurred to me while I was devouring my dinner how little I ate that day (details and photos below). The realization didn’t just happen out of nowhere like- funny, all I ate today were two meals, I wonder what’s on TV? But more like – wow, I was so hangry before I sat down for this meal I didn’t even notice they started repaving the street outside my house.
Before I could eat, I had to get my 14-month old son fed. My husband was working late so I was solo in this task. Getting a 14-month old to eat his vegetables is not easy. Anyone who has raised a toddler has probably experienced this reality at some time or another. One day he loves swiss chard, the next day he throws it on the floor. He can’t get enough beets, then gags when he sees them. I go through cycles of shame with this. I am, after all, the director of an organization committed to improving people’s health through the consumption of vegetables. And I know how important good nutrition is for a child of his age. There are countless studies that report if children does not get the right nutrition from pre-birth through 5 years old they can be at a lifelong disadvantage both mentally and physically. What would my friends in Lwala, Kenya or Buwala, Uganda say about my failure to get my son to eat his peas? To say the least, raising a toddler has been humbling and an everyday reality check.
The most sure fire way I can get my son to eat his veggies is to give him those perfectly packaged squeeze pouches. I always buy the best, the USDA certified organic fruit and vegetable mixes, paying careful attention to the sugar content and vitamin percentages. He loves them and they have made my life infinitely easier. I keep pushing the vegetables on the plate but there is only so much one can do to make a toddler eat something he doesn’t want.
On Sunday, while shopping for my Live Below the Line week I picked up some more vegetable pouches for him. My grocery store had my favorite brand on sale and I was stoked. I started cruising through the nutrition labels as I always do, careful to select the ones with the most leafy greens and other varieties I can’t get him to stomach otherwise. I pulled about 15 off the shelf and made a connection I hadn’t before. Each sale priced pouch came in at $1.49. That was about to be my WHOLE meal budget for 1 day.
I’ve known and seen how hard it is for parents living in poverty all over the world to ensure their children get the proper nutrition they need to grow healthy and thrive. Now being a mother, this strikes a different cord in my heart. It is one thing to imagine myself eating on an austere budget but a completely different thing to imagine not being able to give my son the foods, medical care or educational opportunities he needs to thrive.
In that grocery store aisle I felt the broken hearts of every mother who prays that what they give their child will be enough, knowing that there will always be more they wish they could do and there is nothing they wouldn’t sacrifice for their children.
While living below the line for this week is challenging it is nothing like what most of our farmers face on a daily basis. This experience is helping me to deeply reflect on the work DIG does and the importance of it.
For almost a decade, DIG has been passionately working with children at-risk for malnutrition and/or living with complications that make them especially vulnerable. Building gardens and connecting mothers with ways to provide life-giving nutrition to their children will always be an aspect of this work I am most proud of.
My Lunch on Monday: a 2 egg omelet with beans, potato, and kale accented with a little cilantro from the garden
My Dinner on Monday: chicken and vegetable fried rice, spiced with cayenne, salt and pepper