Monday, 1 August 2011

You Can't Get There from Here

There was an article I read probably 13 years ago that ended with that sentence.  "You can't get there from here."  It stuck with me.  The article was about relative poverty, the working poor, those who long for better or more, but can't reach it from where they're at.

Reporting on conditions in the inner city of a second tier Canadian city, it could have been Windsor, the article was about hunger.  It was born of the frustration of seeing the poor in the writer's neighbourhood sending the children off to school without a proper lunch, of seeing children eat packages of Mr. Noodles (a dry ramen noodle with a package of sodium meant to imitate a chicken stock) as a breakfast substitute as they shuffled to school; of seeing a child stop by a convenience store, buy a large bag of Doritos, put it in the hood of her winter coat (for lack of a proper backpack).  This was her lunch.

It is difficult to find nutritious food within a reasonable walking distance of most neighbourhoods of our inner city.  Big Box supermarkets (and hardware stores, and pools and rinks, and libraries) may work well for people with wheels, but those without spend precious dollars on taxis to bring their groceries home.  It is faster and more convenient, but not better or cheaper, to spend precious dollars on belly-filling junk foods in the local 7-11 or a Tim Hortons.

Sickness and poor health as a result of poor nutrition keep people in poverty.  Children lack the energy to concentrate at school, adults struggle to get through the work day in listless surrender.  Decrying the lack of reasonable local alternatives to convenience store food shopping, to quote the article, "You want fresh vegetables?  You can't get there from here."

The relatively poor in a country of plenty live a quiet desperation.  Not only do they live day to day with a hunger for a decent meal, they live in a land of plenty, just out of reach.

The poor of Windsor live with empty stomachs in a poverty of hope.  You want better for yourself and for your children?  You can't get there from here.  Not the way it is now.

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