Do you remember the last time you were really hungry? Not
just peckish, but actually ‘missed out on lunch, breakfast was small and now
dinner is late’ type of hunger. It is painful, but probably the hardest thing
is that the only thing that you can think about in that moment is food. You can
smell it, taste it and imagine how it would feel just being close to a meal
that is ready to eat. Sure, you try to distract yourself and think about
something else, but when the image of the perfect hamburger pops up in your
mind then it’s all over. It’s food and nothing else that has your attention.
If you have experienced that, or something like it, then you
are not alone. It is the psychological phenomenon of scarcity. There was a
study that was done on the impact on people when they live on a starvation
diet. Over time they grew so weak and thin, as you would imagine, but the impact
on the mind was what caught researchers by surprise. They discovered that all
the participants could talk about was food. They memorised recipes, compared
food prices and shared about their favourite meals. So they decided to distract
them with a movie but all they could focus on was the meals that the characters
in the movie were eating. They were so consumed by what they didn’t have, their
lack, that they couldn’t focus on anything else. They couldn’t see the big
Not having enough of what you need can become the only thing
that matters to you.
That is why the work of Opportunity International is so
powerful. Providing a small loan to mothers who can start a business and create
an income overcomes the scarcity problem, allowing people to shift their focus
to other important things and make wise decisions.
What happens when the extraordinary becomes normal?
Human history is littered with examples of people who have come into a large increase in income, won the lottery or had their life dramatically changed beyond what they could hope for, only to become so accustomed to this new life that it becomes normal. They then forget what life used to be like and take their extraordinary circumstances for granted.
Australia is a prime example of this en masse. The way we consume food has changed so significantly over the last 40 years that it beggar’s belief. Preparing family meals looks very different now, if it happens at all. Not only has the increase in the prominence of super markets changed how we access food, but the introduction of fast food restaurants has impacted how and where we consume it. Not to mention the ease in which we can access freshly prepared meals from a range of providers delivered to our door through the use of an app on our phone. We don’t even have to move off the lounge to organise dinner. Amazing – what a journey of food consumption.
As we become more and more accustomed to this new reality it is easy to forget that hunger is still the biggest killer on the planet. Whilst we can have food delivered at the tap of a smart phone, 10% of the global population are suffering from chronic hunger and for them the extraordinary is not about choice or ease of access but of finding a meal for their family. So next time your delivery takes a few extra minutes or the line at the fast food restaurant is slow stop and reflect on how things have changed, but also how things are for those living in poverty. Perhaps every time you eat out or order in, set aside some money to donate to making our world a better place.