Refugee Ration Challenge, Refugee Week 2019

Four members of the group

During Refugee Week a group of 5 friends and colleagues completed a ration challenge. We ate only the foods outlined below that represent what a refugee in a camp in Jordan would get:

  • 1.92kg of rice
  • 170g of red lentils
  • 85g of dried chickpeas
  • 120g of tinned sardines (or eggs for veggies)
  • 400g of tinned kidney beans
  • 330ml of oil
  • 400g of plain flour
  • 150g fruit

It was a challenge but we all made it! Along the way we have raised awareness of the dietary conditions for those who inhabit the camps, we’ve raised a pleasing amount of money towards the People in Motion target, and we’ve learned something positive about ourselves and our behaviour – making this a challenge worth accepting. Here are some of our reflections.

“In taking part in the Ration Challenge, I’d hoped, of course, to have some modest insight into what it might be like to survive on such a limited diet, though I was acutely aware that my own experience would end after seven days. The trial certainly met these expectations. It was tough – not so much the quantity of food (there was enough rice in the ration to keep me satiated twice over), but in the dour, monotonous repetition of the same, or similar foodstuff – and that this, potentially,  goes on for month after month, year after year.”

“What I didn’t expect was that it should make me question my own relationship with food in such a profound way, and how it would affect my choices after completing the challenge. How? Well, I’m much more aware of portion size now.  I’m zealous about not being wasteful and I’m much more aware of how to make simple ingredients last or be used creatively.”

‘It made me realise that I eat far too much protein i.e. meat, so I’ve changed my diet and reduced my intake by at least half, and I still probably eat too much.’

“It made me think about the cultural differences in our understanding of what our dietary needs are in the West as opposed to what are in the rations. We could live much more frugally and still have a good balanced diet.”

“It completely changed the way I feel about eating. I felt very fortunate!”

“It made me think not just about refugees but about all those who have to budget around their food. Being rich is eating what you like today with no consequence for what will be available tomorrow.”

“When you have such a limited choice, you appreciate simple foods more. I found that basic flatbreads were very quick and easy to make, and together with a simple lentil soup could provide a tasty lunch. I thought I would miss spices more; in fact l quickly found that using the same spice day after day is almost worse than no spice at all.”