Poverty reduced to a chicken soup recipe.

In response to this “Facts and Arguments” essay in today’s Globe and Mail.

Although is a very commendable principle to raise awareness of poverty, to do an essay on trying to understand poverty, reduce to a challenge on living on 2 dollars a day (10 for a week), and to further reduce this reality to “what recipe can I do”, and the question whether “the old chicken bought at China Town grocery store is safe to eat”, is a very simplistic approach.

Some of the same misguided simplification, can be seen in the comments section, where they discuss mostly, how to better the recipe, with carrots, or lentils.

I am born in Colombia, immigrated 12 years ago to Canada. I come from a middle-upper class family in Colombia, where there were always food on the table, had the fortune of good quality education, and the luxury of vacations every year, so I have not experimented poverty directly.

But being born in Colombia, you see misery, (real misery) on the streets every day, so much, that you ignore it, and live with it. But now, living in Canada, and returning to Colombia for visiting family every now and then, the reality of poverty in a country as Colombia hits you in a very profound way.

My most recent experience with poverty was the day before Christmas, December 23 in Bogota. After inviting family and friends for a pre-Christmas get together, we over indulged in pizza, and at the end of it, we had a whole pizza left over.

The Canadian thing to do, is to let it be, and maybe munch an extra slice, but after a day, to throw it away in the garbage. When we saw this with my wife, around 10:00 pm, we decided to pack all the leftover pizza in a box, go around the neighborhood, and offer pizza slices to any one around.

Just a couple of blocks away, we saw a whole family of 5 or 6, Grandma, the Mother, and two or thee children, the youngest being a breastfeeding baby, outside of a supermarket. They generally ask for change, some people give them money, some others anything from the supermarket. We decided to give them the pizza. The grandmother and mother were initially shocked, and then, very thankful. The oldest child (around 8 years old), in the beginning was hesitant, doubtful, and later worried that he had to eat with his hands not being clean.

That left over pizza might have been the best Christmas dinner they have had in a very long time.

It is very easy to talk about your 2 dollars a day challenge, and reduce it to a chicken soup recipe, knowing that your credit card bills will be paid, you have a acclimatized house, health care is covered by the government, and your children will go to school in September.

In poverty, the 2 dollars a day, are not for your groceries, its for your living, housing, clothes, healthcare, and education.

Poverty is not simply the fact of living with less than 2 dollars a day. Its knowing that there is no way out.

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