Participant bio – Kirsten Mueller and family

Name: Kirsten Mueller and family

Live: Fraser Valley, BC

Why doing the Challenge: Choosing to take the challenge wasn’t an easy decision. I knew it would not just impact me; I would not be successful unless I could engage my family. Our daughter got excited when she asked if she could approach her teachers about a class presentation about the experience. Absolutely! Our 15 yr old son was completely against trying it out. He’s ALWAYS hungry, as is typical with teen boys, and I think the thought of being even more hungry was too much for him. I was SO torn about this, because on the one hand I didn’t believe I would be right into “guilting” him into participating, but on the other hand, I disagreed with his views (politically, he does not understand or agree with the act of us going without, if its not going to feed poor people – he’s a very concrete thinker). After another 36 hours of thinking it over, trying to decide (and my daughter periodically approaching me “for the last time, are we doing it or not!”) I decided to go ahead. We solved the problem of one family member opting out by bringing him on the shop, and having him choose his own foods for the week (approved by me). He’s taken them to the downstairs fridge and will be feeding himself this week! I have to admit, it was somewhat surreal to see him wandering around the store with a grocery cart of his own. My kids are growing up too quick.
So after waffling for days, at the 11th hour we decided to go ahead. I’m already realizing that we can only “simulate” the experience so much. For example, we are choosing not to buy coffee, but when I go to work this week, I’ll have coffee available. Or in another example, I didn’t buy dishwasher soap this week – the rules say not to eat what’s in the cupboards but I am continuing to use my dishwasher soap. All three of us already have many many little stories like this. I think that’s ok, we’ll figure it out as we go along, and the important part is we will be more “present” in what we consume.
Despite my anxiety on how we would get through the week, I chose to do this because, as a social worker, I frequently walk into the homes of people on income assistance. Almost twenty years after getting my Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW), I recently completed my MSW as part of the first cohort to graduate from this brand new program offered University of the Fraser Valley. I live in Abbotsford and when a local opportunity to arose to get my grad degree the time seemed right. As part of my grad studies I researched the impact of poverty on my clients. I was captured by the “Social Determinants of Health” model, especially as it is described by Dr. Dennis Raphael, which places poverty as the determinant underlying most of the others. In school I learned that the evidence shows that we spend so much time promoting healthy lifestyles such as “exercise”, and “don’t smoke” and so on – when in reality the number one thing you can do to be healthy is “don’t be poor”. Since completing my research I have tried to keep finding ways to connect what I learned in school about poverty with what I do at work, and keeping the conversation about poverty going, especially in my workplace.

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