What’s it like to be poor? Most of us do not know. I do not. Most of us who work in the Health Region have enough money for groceries, clothes and a safe place to live. This gives us a significant advantage in being healthy.

In September I was one of 13 local residents who participated in a poverty awareness event called the Food Bank Challenge. We were asked to have a small taste (literally) of what it is like to depend on the Food Bank for our food for a week.

We posted comments about our experience on a blog at foodbankchallenge.com.

We knew that this experience in no way reflected the full experience of people who are really poor. But we learned a lot about not being in control and having to worry from meal to meal about having enough to eat. It was not fun.

I was glad when the week was over. Only six of us managed to stick to the challenge for the full week. Two of the people who tried to include their small children in the experience were among the first to withdraw because it was so difficult for the children.

I quickly learned that I could not do this for long and still do my job, which, although not physically demanding, involves very long, often stressful days, and requires a high level of mental concentration.

I could not manage a full two weeks on the food I received, without supplementing it with other sources such as the Friendship Inn, which many poor people do. Life is not as enjoyable when you have to worry about your next meal. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be for people with small children.

The short, medium and long term impact of poor nutrition is profound and it is no surprise that our Health Region research has confirmed that people living on a low income use more health services and have poorer health status. As important as it is to support the Food Bank, the ultimate answer is helping more people have decent incomes, safe housing, and other community supports.

There are many ways in which we can help, as a Health Region and as a community of colleagues who care. One way we all can help is to donate to the United Way, which supports so many people, not just people who live in poverty. I hope you will join me in supporting the United Way. Every little bit will make the difference to the many community agencies and the people and families they help.

Read Maura’s Food Bank Challenge blog here!

Maura Davies
President & CEO
Saskatoon Health Region