GROW for Food Justice

Guest post by Janine Woodward – volunteer with Oxfam Bath

This winter, I decided to grow.

Not vertically (though being 5 foot 3 I could do with it) but agriculturally, growing my own food.

As a fan of The Good Life, the thought of ‘living off the land’ has always been a bit of a dream. So, when given the opportunity to create two vegetable beds in my partners back garden I jumped at the chance!

And this year, growing food has even more significance.

I recently visited Zambia with Oxfam. Many of the people I met were subsistence farmers. Their work is their land, and they rejoice if it provides them with enough food for their family. We take it for granted that we can visit a shop, at any time of day, and for a relatively small amount, choose a variety of foods to sustain us. And we can always put a little treat in the basket too – the odd chocolate bar or fancy bottle of wine.

The farmers I met didn’t have this luxury. Quite the reverse. Although few were among the 1 billion people who will go to bed tonight hungry, many were part of the 1 billion ‘hidden hungry’. Those who can just afford the food required to live, but lack essential nutrients from their diet, making them more vulnerable to illness & changes in food availability.

What I find difficult to stomach is the fact that at the same time, nearly 1 billion people are chronically obese. There is huge disparity between food availability and consumption for rich and poor. The reasons for this are many, and complex. But it’s quite clear is that the world food system is broken.

Now, growing a tiny quantity of food in my back garden is clearly not going to either fully sustain me or fix the system. But it does make me appreciate how fortunate I am. And thankfully, there is a bigger, better solution!

Oxfam have just launched the campaign GROW.

The aim of GROW is to help us understand why the world food system is broken, and what we can do as individuals and by coming together to fix it.

So, I’m going to carry on GROWing – both my vegetables, and the movement. And I hope you’ll join me!

Visit my blog at  Oxfam Bath to follow my growing adventures.

Photos by Janine Woodward

How Hungry are you Right Now ?

HUNGRY: The painful sensation or state of weakness caused by the need of food.

If you’re still thinking about it, the answer is not very.

Starting this Wednesday my wife and I will be taking part in the Live Below the Line Challenge and feed ourselves on only £1 a day each for five days.


It’s a much quoted statistic that 1.4 billion people in the world are currently living in extreme poverty, struggling to meet their basic needs of food, clean water, shelter, sanitation and education – on less than $1.25 a day.

You might think that perhaps it’s possible to live more cheaply in countries in the developing world, where perhaps $1.25 goes a lot further. If so you might be surprised to learn that the figure relates to local purchasing power, ie: the total equivalent goods and services obtainable for $1.25 in the USA.

The Live Below the Line Challenge is an awareness and fundraising campaign that aims to allow those in the developed world to better understand the daily challenges faced by those trapped in extreme poverty.

Those taking part agree to spend only £1 a day on food and drink –  the 1.4 billion people in the world really living in that situation also have to find drinking water, shelter, fuel, medicine, clothes, transport and school fees from that £1. Of course it’s impossible, and the more I think about this, the more difficult I find it to imagine the very very hard choices that living on such a small amount of money would demand.

As well as feeling hungry, I expect I’ll find the process of  planning, measuring and preparing all my meals pretty time consuming. Like everybody else I’m used to having a range of food available all the time, and not being able to simply go into the nearest shop to buy something when I want is bound to make me feel a little uncomfortable. I also expect it’ll be quite dull – lots of rice, potatoes, beans and soup, but not much sweet stuff, fruit, tea and coffee. There will also be no meet, fish, beer or wine (I know!).

Just to make it extra challenging the kids will be eating normally, and we’ll be preparing all their food . . .

I’m not after any sponsorship, but will be donating whatever we save on food to Christian Aid, one of the participating charities. I’m sure they’d welcome any of your spare cash if you wish, but the main aim is awareness raising.

Most of us could perhaps do with eating a little less, and if you feel inspired to give it a go there’s still time. In fact the campaign suggests that people pick any 5 day period during May that suits them, so you can work around parties and  big  nights out etc.

There’s something else interesting about Live Below the Line – it’s less than one year old.

It was thought-up by two Australian aid workers returning from Bangladesh in 2008, with the first official campaign in August 2010. Less than ten months later it’s one of the fastest growing anti-poverty campaigns across the world, with backing from several large international charities. It is supported by Hugh Jackman and several other celebrities, and seems to be catching the interest of an unusually wide cross section of people, including several Members of the House of Lords.

I’ll post progress reports and photos of my food on Next Starfish’s Facebook page.

I also imagine I’ll be spending a lot of time next week thinking how lucky I am . . .


Photo attribution