I’m doing the Ration Challenge this year, where I’m going to attempt to survive on refugee rations for a week from June 18-25 (Refugee Week). Refugees are a big political issue here in Australia, and I get very upset when I see the uncompassionate way the major political parties treat and even just talk about fellow human beings who have risked everything to rebuild their lives somewhere safe. We can’t choose where we’re born, and I’d like to think that other people would want to help me if I was in that situation – so I decided to do something about it!
Here’s my food for the week, which are the same rations a Syrian refugee receives in a camp in Jordan:
- 1920 g rice
- 400 g flour
- 170 g lentils
- 85 g dried chickpeas
- 125 g tinned sardines
- 400 g tinned kidney beans
- 300 mL vegetable oil
Since I’m pretty active, I usually eat…a LOT more than this. I’ve eaten that entire portion of kidney beans in one sitting before. There’s a disclaimer warning you that this doesn’t meet the minimum energy standards for the average adult, and that they don’t recommend that you do the challenge for longer than a week. This is especially sad when you realise that refugees live on these amounts for years, and many of them are young growing children and pregnant women! And because of funding shortages for these programs, many refugees actually have to share ration packs or go without.
My food is usually a lot more interesting as well. I’m not a health nut, but I was still struck by the lack of fresh vegetables and fruit. There are some extra “treats” you can earn by hitting fundraising goals (theoretically, real refugees can earn money for these by selling handicrafts):
- $200 – 8 tea bags
- $400 – 50 g of sugar
- $500 – 170 g vegetable of your choice
- $700 – 120 g protein such as eggs, tofu or chicken (it’s… 2 eggs. I ate 3 eggs today just for lunch.)
- $1000 – a bonus item of your choice up to the value of $5 (like a cupcake)
- $2500 – 330 mL hot or cold drink of your choice
So far I’ve raised a bit over $400 (thank you everyone who contributed!), so I can have 8 tea bags and 50 g of sugar, which I’m sure I’ll be savouring grain by grain. You also get a spice or flavouring of your choice for the whole week by sponsoring yourself, 2 teaspoons of instant coffee by sending out requests for sponsorship, and 70 g of milk powder for joining a team (all done!).
Luckily the Ration Challenge organisers send you some recipes and tips for surviving the week – things like:
- “don’t watch cooking shows” (I’m going to avoid things that even look mildly like food… goodbye Tony Moly hand creams!)
- “don’t go to social events that involve food” (my friends moved around our Korean BBQ date to avoid me murdering them in a fit of hangriness)
- “plan your meals so you don’t eat all your good rations in the first two days” (it sounds really basic, but I’d probably still do that because that’s a problem for future Michelle and current Michelle wants food)
- “treat yourself with chickpeas towards the end of the week” (I’ve never seen the words “treat” and “chickpeas” in a sentence together before…)
You can follow all the joys of my Ration Challenge week on my Instagram stories, and I’ll be posting about it here later too.
I won’t lie, I’m feeling pretty nervous! I don’t have a huge week planned, but I’m planning to do a YouTube video and I’m a bit worried about “rice brain” which is when your mental faculties aren’t all there because your body thinks it’s dying. Awesome!
On the bright side, I don’t have the additional challenges that refugees have to deal with, like facing an uncertain future, or wondering if my friends and family are still alive, or thinking about how I’ll never see my home again. And I can still snuggle in my nice warm bed and try to sleep it off if I get too miserable!
If you’d like to support me (or register for the challenge yourself!), head over to the Ration Challenge site. The proceeds of the Ration Challenge go towards emergency water and rations, medical care, training, education and other important basic needs in Jordan, East Africa, Sri Lanka and Thailand.