Many people can only afford to buy less than half the foodstuffs they need to adequately feed their families, claimed Cumuto/Manzanilla MP Christine Hosein, in the budget debate in the House of Representatives on Monday.
She based her claim on her own research in visiting a grocery recently to try to buy a basic basket of foodstuffs with an allocation of $250 to $300 per week that she said would be respectively available to two typical families.
Based on one person eating 21 meals in a week, Hosein said a family of six needs 126 meals per week, but bemoaned that a typical family’s pooled food allowance will allow the family to eat for less than three days in a week.
“I went in the grocery and looked for things that could stretch, and that have yield. I know I need the food but I also need toiletries.” She bought toilet paper and sanitary napkins, plus foodstuffs. “I bought two tins of chicken Vienna sausages, a tin of tuna, a tin of sardine, a tin of chicken luncheon meat, onions, Breeze, cream of wheat, flour, cheese, eggs, macaroni, powdered milk.
“At least powdered milk, I can mix a little bit in a little bit of water and water it down, like watered down juice when you go in the Chinese shop. I have watered down milk so at the end of the day if the baby is drinking powdered milk. I have to think about everybody getting a little something to eat.
“I considered hard and long, should I buy the packs of peas such as split peas, black-eyed peas, lentils, red beans, or should I buy the tin? I’m considering should I take 20 minutes of gas to cook something that will yield, or take a tin that will take two minutes of cooking?
"I bought soap, I bought Lipton. If I drink some hot tea maybe I could survive this (poverty) while my children eat.”
Hosein lamented that this weekly bill amounted to $349, which exceeded the $250 to $300 budgeted sum for two hypothetical families, yet did not supply enough food for them.
“At the end of the day, you ask yourself how many meals can this prepare? This could only provide for two and a half days per week. It means therefore that it is difficult for anybody to survive. It’s difficult.” She said some parents are halving their estimated 126 meals, by resorting to relying on the National School Feeding Programme to nourish their children with breakfast and lunch.
However she lamented that this programme has been reduced, leaving families with their challenge.
Throughout her presentation, her colleague Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh muttered "Lobster" accusingly in the direction of the Government benches.