food

'The suitcase this little boy is wheeling is his bed. There's a small way we can help him.'

Some movies stay with me for longer than others. Given I can barely remember where I left my keys since giving birth, it’s amazing that I’m still thinking about Lion four months after I saw it.

The scene that really got to me was when Saroo, a five-year-old boy, was lost in a very busy train station in India. He was trying to get the attention of the person in the ticket office, presumably to say I’m lost, please help me. But the adults in the line just kept pushing him out of the way. No one would help him. I found that amazing and, as a mum, heartbreaking.

I wasn’t the only one bawling in the cinema, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. Thank God I wasn’t pregnant. There should have been a warning on the door saying hormones and Lion do not mix.

After the movie, I wanted to rush out of the cinema and change the world. But life took over.

Listen to the full episode of Mia Freedman’s No Filter with Sue Brierley, of Lion, here. Post continues after audio…

In moments of extreme mess and heightened emotion following a particularly fussy feeding session, I would yell at my son Leo about how lucky he is to have food. Pointing out that he should be grateful rather than throwing it on the floor.

I’m not sure his two-year-old brain understood what I was saying. He was probably just thinking, ‘mum usually gives up just after she yells. I wonder what piece of fruit I’ll get’.

The truth is, I was taking my frustration out on Leo. I was feeling guilty about all my privileges and those that I can give my son. It didn’t seem right that we have so much and others have so little. I didn’t know what to do with that guilt and worry. I wanted to do more than just give money to international aide.

As if to rub salt into the wound, my friend Thérèse shared a video from her travels in the Philippines on Facebook. It showed a little boy walking the streets of Manila. He was a toddler, just like Leo. He was half-naked and dragging a battered wheelie suitcase. He was going up to people, reaching out to them. He was trying to ask for help, for food. But he couldn’t talk yet. Where were his parents?

When I asked Thérèse, she said he didn’t have anyone in the world. The suitcase he was dragging with him was his bed.

Image: OnePlate.co
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I couldn’t understand why no one would help him. Surely some agency would take him off the street. But there are 1.5 million street children in the Philippines – his situation is not unique.

I’m used to seeing hungry children on TV ads, but they always seem to be with their parents, or perhaps I presume they’re with their parents. This was a new low, the tears were flowing and my guilt was out of control.

I love eating, especially eating out, but the food just didn’t taste as good anymore.

While I was struggling with what to do about world hunger, Thérèse was actually doing something about it.

Thérèse's new social enterprise makes it easy to donate to sustainable food projects in developing countries when you eat out. Ask your local café, restaurant, bar or pub what their OnePlate dish is. If you order it, a dollar will help feed a child who has no one to buy them a babycino.

OnePlate.co is the result of a year’s worth of volunteer work from a collection of amazing professionals – essentially Thérèse and her friends – to get it off the ground. They put all the money they raise into roof top gardens and farms in developing countries where children can learn how to grow their own food whether they live in the city or the country.

Kate James and her son. Image: Supplied
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They have partnered with a leading horticulturalist to make sure these farms produce food every week. And the kids love working in them, they learn something new and can talk with positive and caring role models.

What I appreciate about Thérèse is that she’s made me feel good again about eating out. She talks about how going to cafés and restaurants brings us together, it’s the basis for our community. As someone who’s escaped the house many a rainy afternoon to the local café when a play date has been cancelled, I definitely get that. Those moments of peace when Leo’s eating a muffin and I’m having a grown-up chat with the café-owner are bliss.

I’ve managed to use my relationship with my local café to get them to become a OnePlate.co venue. All it took was a simple conversation. It went something like this. "Look, I’ve bought 2862 lattes from you, it’s your turn to do something for me." Well, perhaps not quite like that, but it was an easy conversation because I knew the manager pretty well. These relationships we have as mums are a huge asset to OnePlate.

I’ve taken a breath and realised I can’t solve the world's problems, but at least I feel like I’m contributing to something I believe is really going to make a difference. And I’m looking forward to keeping my café updated about all the OnePlate.co projects. It will be great to see the gardens develop and hear about what the kids make with the produce.

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