Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee, Communications

Bethany Lee, Communications

Occupation: Professional communicator currently working in (and loving!) municipal government
Favorite food: Anything spicy! I love Thai and Indian food.
Guiltiest food pleasure: Anything salty, chips and popcorn come to mind…
Family size: 3
Estimate of how much you and your family spend on food per week: I would estimate $150 for two adults and one child, that would include any food or beverages ‘on the go’ and household products.
Why you are participating in this project: I have always been a passionate storyteller and enjoy sharing my experiences through many communication forms. I was instantly interested when approached to participate in the food challenge, recalling past stories where community leaders participated in these type of challenges, and I thought they were both thoughtful and though-provoking. I thought I could learn a lot from the experience, and bring light to the issues that exist around food security, costs and access. I’m a passionate food lover, cook and consider myself to be a very healthy and active 40-year-old woman. I have had food access issues in my life for short periods of time, but never prolonged. I am currently a resident of Orangeville and the mother of an active 10-year-old boy.

Day 1

What are you missing the most?
Today I am missing fruit!
What are your challenges with cooking?
I’m missing having access to veggies and greens for my cooking; I always cook with lots of veggies no matter what the dish is. Colourful peppers, spinach and kale are my regulars. I’m missing fruit as well. Everyone around me seemed to have great looking pieces of fruit today!
I have a headache from not having my regular amounts of coffee/caffeine. I selected coffee as a pantry item so am allowing myself a couple small cups a day.
Tonight’s dinner for me (pictured) was a veggie curry using one potato, half an onion, canned peas, curry powder, garlic, and one tbsp. oil (oil and curry powder being two of my pantry items). I put this over some rice. It was pretty tasty.curry
My five pantry items are: coffee, oil, garlic, salt and curry powder.
Your thoughts on taking the challenge vs. the reality for people facing economic hardship and limited access to food.
For me, the challenge right now is about making up dishes that taste great and being smart about spreading the food out across several days creatively. I imagine that I have more time and energy than some might have who are facing economic hardship.
Last night when I went to the Orangeville food bank, I arrived by car – which many wouldn’t have access to. Our food bank is in the industrial area of Orangeville, which is a hike no matter where you live in our urban area. It’s hard to think about making that trek on foot, with kids, or during the winter months, and then carry a load back to home as well. Bit of a tough location, but assume the space and the cost is right.
The number one thing you want to share with family and friends.
I learned so much last night, but the first thing I want to share is: did you know that you are limited to one food bank visit per month at the Orangeville food bank? The food bank will share with clients 3-5 days worth of food for yourself and family members during that visit. There are other options in our community, but that was a surprise to me. I thought you could go any time. Also a surprise to me was that the food bank is open twice a week (one daytime hours, one evening hours). Our Orangeville food bank is all volunteer run.
Did you learn anything new? Other comments?
Only 10 % of clients come monthly – most use the food bank a few times, or periodically as needed.

Day 2

What are you missing the most?
Coffee… lots of coffee. salt for mac and cheese.
What are your challenges with cooking?
No real challenges with cooking. I had a package of plain oatmeal for breakfast, it was pretty boring with no sugar or toppings to add. I had my leftover peas and rice curry today for lunch. I made mac and cheese for dinner and shared it with my son, even though he isn’t on the food bank challenge. He loves the stuff. I like the first couple bites but then … not so much.
I’ve had two coffees today.
Your thoughts on taking the challenge vs. the reality for people facing economic hardship and limited access to food.
I am feeling bored and a bit cranky about not having variety of fruits and veg in my day. I feel bloated and a bit lethargic and not as sharp. Could be the caffeine cut-back or the lack of energy food. Everything I have I’ve prepared the best that I can. For those who face this every day, I imagine it must be very difficult to stay interested in food and keep a good appetite going.
The number one thing you want to share with family and friends.
I am so thankful that I know how to cook! I am thankful to my mom and grandmothers who all (mostly through osmosis) taught me how to cook all sorts of meals from scratch and using minimal ingredients. I am thankful to have taken professional cooking lessons and read a ton of cookbooks as well in my life that taught me great ways to prepare good meals on a budget.
Did you learn anything new? Other comments?
Something I learned via www.orangevillefoodbank.org is that in their last fiscal year they served 4,300 people – approximately 1150 families and 500 singles – an increase of 7% in family use over the previous year.

Day 3

What are you missing the most?
Peanut Butter
What are your challenges with cooking?
Not having too much trouble with cooking. Last night, I combined my can of corn with the mushroom soup, the other half of an onion and potato, to make a little corn chowder. This was lunch today. I had plain oatmeal for breakfast. I had one egg on a piece of plain toast for dinner.
Was in a meeting today and my stomach was grumbling so much and for so long that there was a pause and someone asked if I was okay.
Your thoughts on taking the challenge vs. the reality for people facing economic hardship and limited access to food.
Socially, I’ve been asked to go for coffee or grab lunch a couple of times. I have had my lunch on hand, so that wasn’t a problem, but not being able to join socially without a big fuss of not having lunch has been a bit eye opening. Sharing good conversation over food and drink is one of my great joys in life.
The number one thing you want to share with family and friends.
If you are able to make donations to your local foodbank, think about or research items that families need, that are tasty and nutritious. I think we think “staples” like pasta, brown beans, mushroom soup… but there are many other options that I think would help clients feel healthier.
Did you learn anything new? Other comments?
Two of my items had best before dates… from a long time ago. I’m not sure what the policy is on best before dates at our Food Bank in Orangeville. I definitely used the items, but didn’t feel great about it – I wondered how long something is actually ‘good’ or ‘safe’ to consume after its expiry date.

Day 4

What are you missing the most?
Small nutritious snacks throughout the day
What are your challenges with cooking?
I ate breakfast, eggs on toast and that was great – one of my faves though I usually have butter, salt and pepper as well! just plain with a bit of salt this time. Lunch was leftover chowder (which I forgot to say, included chicken in a can). Dinner was brown beans on toast.
Your thoughts on taking the challenge vs. the reality for people facing economic hardship and limited access to food.
I know that this will be over soon – so I am *realistically* dreaming about a big, healthy meal with every vegetable under the sun, lots of pepper and fresh herbs…. should I go on? I realize though that this is probably not a dream that those using food bank support would be able to have. In fact, as their supplies dwindle, perhaps they will not be eating at all.
I feel a sense of guilt mixed with gratefulness for the excellent diet that I generally maintain, and know that I will be savouring the flavours and variety that are coming my way.
The number one thing you want to share with family and friends.
Looking back on my experience last Tuesday, the people who run the food bank in Orangeville were genuine and lovely people. There are so many people from all walks of life that run social services like this that are independent of government, and are essential to our community. Are you one of them? Is there something you can do to help? I encourage you. I’ll be thinking about this more often moving forward.I’m concerned about a couple of things and wonder if there is a way our community can help. I notice the great work that has been done by Caledon Community Services in Bolton on the “Exchange”. Take a look at http://www.ccs4u.org/theexchange.aspx Bolton is a community of approximately 30,000 people (so about the same size as Orangeville!) The newly designed centre looks open and warm and inviting, acts as a place for a variety of services, and in terms of food, offers food and classes. I am just really intrigued to know how the Exchange got to where it is today, and is that something we can do here in Orangeville. Our centre feels like a doctor’s waiting room, the space must be cramped on pick-up days, the line-up would extend outside. Do we need a better space? Longer hours? Nicely designed information materials? how can this happen? Often, there are people in our community who would be able to give time, if they knew the need and the purpose.
Did you learn anything new? Other comments?
I realize that I am a good “snacker” – that is, I grab a yoghurt or granola, a banana or apple, or some crackers and cheese, when I’m hungry and blood sugar levels are dropping. It’s pretty automatic for me. It keeps me going throughout the day. I didn’t realize how much I need this for good job performance and to keep me ‘even-steven’ with my son.
Overall, in a short time, I feel a drop in energy levels and my digestion has gone awry. It’s that quick, folks.