An Experience in Contrasts

By Kim Harding, Technical Advisor, Supplementation in Pregnancy

pita-potatoes-tomatoes

I have to admit, I got a little obsessed when I was preparing for Live Below the Line last year.

I made visits to several grocery stores and a bulk food store, trying to find the best prices on the items I would need for the week. Eggs were cheap here but I could get lentils cheaper over there. Sugar and spice and other things nice were bought in small quantities at the bulk food store. Preparing low-cost meals and comparing what I was eating with what others had prepared added to the experience of the week. All of this took time, transportation and access to different purchasing options – advantages that I’m privileged to have.

Even though I was often hungry, the Live Below the Line challenge was an overall positive experience and even fun at times.  However, I couldn’t help but feel conflicted at the contrast between my own experience and the reality of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition for over a billion people who actually live below the line every day, when it is not temporary or a choice.

Poverty not only impacts the amount of food people eat, it also affects the amount of nutrition within that food. At the Micronutrient Initiative, where I’m the Program Manager for Strategic Research and Latin America, I’m working to find better ways to bring good nutrition to those who are living below the line.

Micronutrients are key vitamins and minerals a body needs to survive and maintain health. When people eat food rich in micronutrients, they can live longer, they can learn better, they are healthier and they can work to their full potential.

Poverty and nutrition are not only linked and but they are cyclical in relation. When you don’t have the purchasing power to buy healthy foods, you are at greater risk of poorer health; when you have poor health, you can’t participate in life to your full potential and therefore are at greater risk of remaining in poverty; by increasing access to micronutrients, we can help break that cycle.

I’m grateful that organizations like RESULTS Canada and its thousands of volunteers across the country understand this and are supporting MI’s efforts to bring better nutrition to the most vulnerable.

As I prepare for this year’s Live Below the Line week, I will keep an open mind, and try to reflect on how my experience differs from truly living below the poverty line, in Canada or elsewhere around the world.

This piece was originally published on the Results Canada Blog on 15/04/2015

Harding Kim headshot

Kim Harding

Technical Advisor, Maternal and Neonatal Health and Nutrition

Kim Harding is Nutrition International’s Technical Advisor, Maternal and Neonatal Health and Nutrition, and supports the design and scale up of integrated nutrition and health programs for pregnant women and newborns, helping to ensure a continuum of care across these stages of the life cycle. She has a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, with a focus on International and Community Nutrition. Kim joined Nutrition International in 2009.

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