It's Day 500--er, Day 5--of the Hunger Challenge, and the passage of time has all but ceased.
Today has been an in-the-office day for me, and typically on days like this, I'll look at the clock at, say, 10 a.m. and then discover, approximately five minutes later, that it's 1.30 p.m. Today, notsomuch. Regardless of the fact that I'm both getting a bunch of stuff done and obliterating a fair amount of time on Facebook and the like, the minutes have lengthened to hours. I had breakfast around 8.30--the same bowl of cereal that managed to do a decent job yesterday of filling me up for a few hours--and found myself hungry again less than an hour later. I promised myself I'd wait until noon for lunch, and that turned out to be a vow with painful repercussions, as it took about a day and a half for the numbers in the corner of my computer screen to creep to 12.00. And, of course, any feeling of satiety disappeared within the hour.
There doesn't really seem to be an escape from this lingering hunger. Exercising keeps it at bay temporarily, and then, of course, exacerbates it. Busying myself with work and chores gives me something to do but doesn't quiet my stomach. Even sleep can only do so much: this morning, though I would gladly have slept more to delay the need to eat, I got so hungry that I couldn't convince my body to go unconscious again. (There's a French phrase that keeps floating back to me: dormir c'est manger--to sleep is to eat. Evidently that only goes so far.)
I will acknowledge here again that there are things I could do to cut my food costs further in order to be able to eat more. I could go conventional and processed, could cut out coffee (or go the non-Fair Trade, non-sustainable route), could cut out fruits and veggies (second to coffee in terms of expense). But, of course, I'm too stubborn for that, and would (somewhat twistedly) rather deal with a few more days of hunger than give up the part of this Challenge that has let me realize just how vast the divide between Truly Good Food and Truly Affordable Food is.
Which brings us to the source of my annoyance. If you are a person of limited means who wants to avoid food grown with pesticides or trucked in from thousands of miles away, food that's overly processed or packaged, meat from animals that have been raised in cruelty, or stuff from Big Agra, you're kind of hosed.
With a few exceptions, food that's grown and produced in a way that's healthy and sustainable for the land from which it comes, that's cruelty-free for the animals behind (or in) it, that comes from the small, local farms and makers I think many of us would like to support if we could, and that's good for the people who grow, pick, process, package, and sell it--food like this does not come cheap. Some of it is laughably expensive: there's not a visit I make to Rainbow Grocery that does not have me stumbling across something that's so pricey it stops me in my tracks. And some of it is just expensive enough not to make sense if what you're truly concerned with is cost: if you're hungry and on a budget, why would you go for the organic plums at $3 a pound when the conventional ones cost a third of that?
There's a big, complex, difficult, frustrated argument to make here about how broken our whole system of growing, subsidizing, processing, packaging, and distributing food is. I, alas, am too spaced out this week to summon the brain power to even attempt to make that argument with any degree of eloquence or sense. (Besides, I think it's safe to say that many others have made it before me, to much greater impact.)
But I'll just say that that argument has played out for me this week in the form of the realization that when you're eating on a very limited food budget (and perhaps relying on the generosity of others to supplement it), you have to choose to either eat organically, locally, and sustainably or to eat enough. Were this more than a one-week experiment for me, I don't think that would be a particularly hard choice.