Living below the line – for real

Last night I caught the tail end of a TV programme about people in this country who have to feed their families on less than £2 each a day. According to the programme, recent research estimates that nearly five million people in the UK are struggling to feed themselves properly and eat nutritiously.

Watching the families’ struggle had a sobering effect on me, and made me realise just how fortunate I am. It also got me thinking about the poverty divide, and how so many people wrongly claim to be on the wrong side of it when really they’re nowhere near.

So often people – myself included – say they have no money, and yet no sooner has the breath escaped their lips than they are buying their daily speciality coffee and Pret a Manger salad. Admittedly such purchases are often the difference between being in the red and being in the black, but real poverty is about far more than having a few hundred pounds to pay off on your overdraft and/or credit card.

Real poverty is parents going without food to ensure their children don’t, or families having to swallow their pride and visit food banks so they have enough to survive. Real poverty is scouring the marked down section in the supermarket out of necessity every single day rather than to secure the odd bargain now and again. Real poverty is having to choose between heating and eating.

So next time I’m about to complain about not being able to afford a night out (when I’ve only just had a night out), not having savings (when, even after my recent pay cut I’m still able to afford £150 each month to pay off my credit card) or not being able to afford holidays and clothes (when I go on plenty of the former and have more than enough of the latter as it is) I’m going to stop and think about the families on that programme. I’ll put myself in their position and imagine what it’s like to struggle every single day just to put food on the table and keep the house heated. And I’ll keep my mouth shut.

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