by Katie Le
I can’t begin to compare my life with those suffering from the famine in the Horn of Africa. I can’t even fathom the thought of 13 million people affected by drought and hunger, forced to walk miles for relief and aid. (Source: http://www.wfp.org/crisis/horn-of-africa)
So when I decided to go on a Numana fast, I knew I was going to experience just a small part of what those who are food insecure feel every day.
For a week, I ate one serving of Numana food every day, which is the equivalent to what an adult eats in Haiti for an entire day. To put that in perspective, one bag of Numana food can feed a family of six, so an adult would eat just ¾ cup. Again, for an entire day.
This is a far cry from the three-meals-a-day that I was raised on, but I was motivated to push myself not just for this blog, but to experience the feeling of food insecurity since I never have before.
I grew up in a home with four other siblings. Both of my parents worked, so we lived comfortably as a middle class family in a suburb of California. Food insecurity was the farthest thing from my mind because we always had food in our home. My parents of course never let us take this for granted.
Growing up, I heard stories about my mother’s childhood in Vietnam and how food was often scarce in a “farming” family of 13 children. Her family would fish, grow their own vegetables, and trade to provide meals. And while she never wanted her children to go through the same hardships, a part of me wishes we had.
My life has been entirely too easy and while I feel incredibly blessed for it, working on a project to feed the hungry is honestly a little unnerving because I have no idea what the other side is like. That’s why I chose to go on a Numana fast to experience it, even if it was just for a week.
I prepared the Numana meals, and portioned the servings. And while a pot was plenty for a small family, one serving hardly covered the bottom of my bowl. This was what I ate for one day, along with plenty of water.
Full disclosure: I knew that being hungry was going to suck, but I had no idea how much. The first day, I caved and had three servings instead of one. My body was not use to not eating as much, so I opted for a little more nourishment. Also, the Numana food was surprisingly tasty and reminded me of a Vietnamese rice dish my mom used to make.
By the third day, I was eating just one serving a day. I began to experience headaches from lack of nutrients and found myself thinking about food constantly. I counted down the hours until lunchtime when I would eat my Numana meal, and easily ravished the portion within minutes.
The quality of my work and my concentration wavered tremendously on the fourth and fifth days. I experienced a lot of cloudiness and often felt sleepy in the middle of the day. Between my thoughts about food and my rumbling stomach, it was hard to concentrate on anything longer than a few minutes. I lacked energy and motivation to do anything, including exercising, reading, or studying.
On the last days of my Numana fast, I felt defeated and fatigued. I didn’t like this feeling at all. The days seemed to go by slower; my mind was often unfocused, and my energy level was at an all-time low. When I did eat my meal I would feel much better, but the same feeling of dread would quickly resurface.
Honestly, I feel a little pretentious writing about my week on the fast. It was hardly commendable, and not the least bit like those suffering in the Horn of Africa right now. My experience was entirely different. I knew that I would just have to get through a few days, and then I could eat “normally” again. I knew where my next meal was coming from. I knew that at any moment, if I didn’t feel healthy enough, I could eat. This is not what food insecurity is about, so I cannot claim that I know what it’s like to be food insecure.
What I do know from this experience is how relieved, happy, and thankful I was when I did have something to eat. Once I heated up a portion, I was excited to eat, and I felt happy. It was amazing, even a small bowl of rice made me cheerful and gave me hope for the rest of the day.
I can’t imagine what it is like to be food insecure, but I can imagine how welcoming and comforting it is to have food. And if I can help people in Africa or right here at Wichita State feel like that, and have a little fun doing it, that’s an opportunity that I will take wholeheartedly.