I've been dwelling on this piece about 'living off £20 of food for a week' in the Standard for a couple of days. I can't make up my mind if it's a good thing that journalist do these sort of 'survival' challenges to raise awareness, or if it just trivialises the reality of the experience?
Regardless of that, the line that really resonates is the one I've highlighted below: "There is nothing to make you more hyper-aware of food than when you have none."
This is the crux of it, and what we should be taking from such articles. It's a truth that was revealed so eloquently by Eldar Shafir and Sendhil Mullainathan in their book: Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.
That book, and a number of other articles written by the two authors and their collaborators, discusses how having significantly less of something makes us obsessed by that thing. It changes how we act, talk and, as they prove, think. If you're time-poor you become obsessed about maximising your time, and squeezing every last value from each second. It bends your perception.
And whilst having scarcity in different things share some comparable traits, nothing bends how we think like poverty. There are significant, measurable cognitive consequences of poverty and being poor, and it's worse than anything else they measure.
Why does this matter? Well, to put it bluntly, the people who design services, charities, policy interventions or benefit systems for people who are in poverty, literally don't know how they think. That's probably going to create some challenges in designing things well, and probably means that those cognitive consequences are paid several times over.
There is nothing to make you more hyper-aware of food than when you have none.