By Kelly Barrett, Camrose Canadian Staff Reporter
Imagine eating nothing but cornmeal, lentils, water and oil, in your rations. Imagine having to trade some of your meager portions for basic necessities like soap or medicine for your children. Worst of all, imagine having to live with the constant fear of being murdered for your measly food ration.
This is business as usual for the thousands of displaced refugees of Darfur, Sudan.
Augustana students belonging to the Walk for Darfur club are putting their “best foot forward” to raise awareness of the plight of the refugees of Darfur.
On Nov. 16, approximately 15 students from the club decided to "walk a mile in their shoes," to experience a tiny glimpse of what the displaced refugees experience daily.
They ate nothing but rations of 400 grams of cornmeal, 50 grams of lentils, 50 grams of oil and 5 grams of salt, and they drank only water, daily for three consecutive days. Maggie McBride, who was responsible for the concept of the experiment, now looks at food in an entirely new way.
"It was an interesting window to look in, to experience, to some small degree, how these people are forced to live," said McBride, who explained both the physical and emotional aspects of the diet’s effects. "I have had headaches, a lack of energy and a general down mood," said McBride. "I couldn’t imagine having to provide for a family this way. It would just be bringing the helplessness home."
Leslie Lindballe also experienced the toll of the carbohydrate rich diet. "It’s amazing to discover how food affects your mood and even the way you interact with others. It definitely colours your day with a different brush."
Lindballe also experienced psychological effects from the meager fare. "It was hard to eat because of the texture, and you don’t realize what a central part that food plays in your life and the pleasures that come from eating – the taste and texture of food.”
The students, who completely cleaned both the Wildrose Co-op and Safeway out of cornmeal, got creative with their sparse ingredients and experimented with preparation techniques, frying, or scrambling the cornmeal, baking it like a tortilla or eating it cold.
"It was a stressful experience, especially because we are into mid-terms right now," explained Danielle Hachey, who also suffered fluxuating energy levels.
“Imagine trying to cook this food without a stove or microwave and a limited water supply," she said. "This has given me a new appreciation for food: the taste, variety and availability."
The three students all agree that the 72-hour experiment will forever change the way they view food and that it was definitely an eye opening experience, which they will not soon forget.