A Fife student who attempted to survive on a typical foodbank diet as part of an experiment, said the experience had left him both “shocked and emotionally drained”.
Darren Gibb, who is studying journalism at Fife College, committed to living off nothing but a three-day emergency foodbank parcel in a bid to shed light on those facing the plight of food poverty for real.
But with the rations containing no fresh fruit, dairy or bread, his study has provided the charity’s volunteers with an alarming insight into the true impact on the health and mental well being faced by those forced to survive on hand outs.
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“If I had to eat the foodbank diet for a week or longer I would be climbing the walls,” Darren told the Press.
“It may be enough to sustain you nutritionally, but the human palate needs so much more than just simple fodder to keep going.
“We need flavour, variety and different textures.
“We need fresh meat and fresh fruit and vegetables, not the squishy, flavourless, unseasoned guff that plops flatly out of a tin.”
Despite misgivings, Darren stuck to the plan rigidly, using UHT milk in his tea, eating only tinned meat and vegetables and forgoing basic things such as salt, pepper and fresh produce.
“At times, I was so hungry, I would have eaten anything.
“However, for me, there was light at the end of the tunnel, as I knew once the experiment was over, I could go back to fresh food and my normal diet.
‘Others don’t have that luxury.”
While Darren admitted that the three-day parcel allocation had given him enough food to cover an extra couple of days, he said that taking on the challenge had been a particularly difficult one.
Furthermore, he revealed the ordeal had resulted in him losing half a stone in weight during the three days.
The study came about by chance as the journalism student was researching the impact the introduction of welfare reforms, including Universal Credit, were having on communities and Fife Council.
It was suggested that it would be helpful for Foodbank board members to get some feedback on the service they provide, and to see whether any improvements could be made or changes introduced.
Joyce Leggate, chairman of Kirkcaldy Foodbank, said the study had offered a rare insight into the impact food parcels had on those seeking support.
She said that the organisation was always looking to improve the range of food that it offered to its clients.
“Our recent relocation to the new Greener Kirkcaldy base in East Fergus Place means we can now offer our clients access to a Community Fridge, which gives fresh food away to those who need it.”
She added: “We will be taking on board Darren’s valuable feedback and making appropriate changes.”
Darren’s food parcel challenge
Syrup porridge and cup of tea using UHT milk
Tin of red pepper soup
Tinned chicken korma, pasta and tinned potatoes
“The red pepper soup was okay.
“It filled my stomach, which is the main thing, but with a lack of seasoning it was left wanting.
“Never again will I take salt and pepper for granted-it’s amazing how much difference a little salt makes.
“The portion I made was huge, and would have fed two people.
“I had been given three days supply of food, but if I was in dire straits, I would be able to stretch the three days’ worth to four or five days.”
Unsweetened porridge and cup of tea using UHT milk
Tin of baked beans and cup of tea using UHT milk
1/2 tin of tuna with pasta
1/2 tin of rice pudding and tin of mandarin pieces
“The unsweetened porridge was extremely bland, and I was starting to crave something good,
“I decided against the tin of ‘all day breakfast’ as it did not look appealing at all.
“A bowl of beans on their own as a meal is quite unsatisfying. I ate the whole bowl as I was extremely hungry, washed down with a cup of tea with UHT milk in it.
“As I was drinking my tea, cravings for chocolate or something sweet filled my mind.
“Two hours after dinner I had some rice pudding to try to combat these cravings. I don’t like rice pudding or mandarins, but with nothing else sweet on offer, I had to just to grin and bear it.
“Have serious concerns as to how i will deal with the cravings by tomorrow.”
Unsweetened porridge and a cup of tea using UHT milk
Tin if all-day breakfast (beans,sausage tomato and two mushrooms)
Tinned tuna with pasta, tin of carrots and mushy peas.
1/2 tin of rice pudding
“I woke up this morning feeling depressed and already caving for something sweet.
“The tinned breakfast was disgusting but had to do as there was not a lot else.
“By the evening I was feeling extremely hungry. The meal was an odd combination and tasteless but that was all that was left.
“The past three days on the foodbank diet has not been too bad, and although boring and bland,
If I had to eat the foodbank diet for a week or longer I would be climbing the walls.
“It may be enough to sustain you nutritionally, but the human palate needs so much more to keep going. We need flavour, variety and different textures.
“We need fresh meat and fresh fruit and vegetables,”