Welsh Assembly Members Urged To Eat Just Rice And Beans

Angela Burns AM says dietary deprivation reminds us people live with extreme poverty

A Welsh Assembly member has pledged to eat nothing more than a limited quantity of rice, beans and porridge for a day – or longer if she can –  and has encouraged others in the Senedd to join her in the Mean Bean Challenge, organised by Christian relief and development charity Tearfund.

Angela Burns told the Welsh Assembly that she was taking on the dietary deprivation because many people round the world are forced to endure very restricted diets.  Often this means there is no choice of food and as little as one meal a day. Ms Burns said in the Senedd: ‘We can all be guilty of taking for granted that which others across the world do not have.  We are able to source an array of exotic fruit and vegetables from around the world in our local shops. However many in developing countries are not so lucky. They have to survive on rice and beans or an equivalent basic for every meal they eat.’  She added: ‘An inadequate diet represented by plain rice and beans really is the reality for those living in poverty. It is for this reason I have agreed to support the Mean Bean Challenge.’

Ms Burns, Assembly Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, flagged up the abstinence from her normal diet in a statement in the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday 21 March.  She called on other Assembly members and staff to take up the challenge too: ‘It is a sacrifice that I am willing to make,’ she said, ‘to remind myself of the plight of so many people around the world.’

Almost 900 people, not only from the UK but also from countries as far afield as the USA, Argentina, Australia and South Africa, have already joined Tearfund’s Mean Bean Challenge this year, most signing up for 5 days in a row of eating only rice, beans and porridge.  Funds raised through sponsorship will support Tearfund’s global work to help end extreme hunger and each Mean Beaner is encouraged to set a target to raise £240.

Many have been moved to join in by the story of Matunda from war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.  As a pygmy, Matunda and her three children are cruelly stigmatised. They live in makeshift huts in a remote village; there’s just one cooking pot for the entire village, no safe drinking water, no school and no money for medicine.

‘We don’t have the tools to cultivate our own land,’ Matunda explains, so the only way she can get something to eat is to make the long journey to the nearest town, where she is paid for her work in scraps of food.  Matunda and her family can only eat one small meal a day and the harsh diet of boiled yams and cassava leaves gives them terrible stomach pain.

Baker and Tearfund ambassador Tom Herbert knows how Angela Burns feels because he’s already taken the Mean Bean Challenge.  ‘The Mean Bean challenge was tough because it’s not enough food, and I felt hungry a lot of the time.

‘It was really worthwhile though,’ Tom added, ‘as I felt a connection in my belly and heart with people who only ever eat this way.  Also, I know Tearfund will have used the money I raised through saving on my food shopping bills to help unlock people’s potential and enable them to leave poverty and hunger behind.’

Anyone interested in the Mean Bean Challenge can sign up at  www.tearfund.org/meanbean

Louise Thomas

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