The phrase “on the breadline” is often used lightly to suggest that we have found something expensive – “any more rounds of drinks at this place and I’ll be on the breadline!” You can often hear the same kind of sentiment after a fancy restaurant meal – “it’ll be beans on toast until payday now.”
Most of the time, for most of us reading this, these are metaphors. We shall not really be queuing for bread or food from a charity; we shall not really only have enough money for the cheapest food in the shops. This is changing. It is changing not just in faraway places where having enough money for the equivalent of beans on toast is a luxury, but on our own doorsteps.
The current economic crisis is driven by many factors, some easier to understand than others. The war in Ukraine has had a devastating effect on those suffering its violence and destruction, but also on the price of energy and food, including, as Ukraine is a major producer of wheat, bread itself. Other factors at work are more hidden, but their impact too is that more people will find that this hitherto notional breadline is a real one.
There are so many things to address here, but just two for today. The first is the role and situation of the home in this crisis. The home is the place where the family returns each day to be fed. Both physically and emotionally. The pressure is on wage-earners and homemakers, and so many who are both, to continue to provide this nourishment. Fine words do not make full stomachs, but healthy attitudes to material things can and do sustain us.
A meal prepared and shared which is received with thankfulness can be a simple one. Making the ordinary special is one of the true gifts of the home. Remembering that this is not the first time things have been hard, remembering the places where they do not remember things not being hard, does not minimize the struggle families are facing, but it does anchor us in gratitude and compassion.
Compassion, because the second aspect that comes to mind today is that of those whose bread is shared in that breadline. The charities whose work to support the neediest will be at full-stretch as times become harder. The homes where there is always space for one more at the table. Where there is an understanding that the best life offers is collaborative rather than competitive when it comes to our resources.
Combining attitudes and material things is the daily work and “bread and butter” of the home. At Home Renaissance Foundation we urge policymakers to recognize the contribution of the home to everyone and to encourage those agencies which support the home – especially the increasing number of homes finding themselves on the breadline today.