Content editor Helen Spriggs is eating refugee rations for a week, here she explains why the challenge is important and what it entails 

I’M only on day two of charity Concern Worldwide’s Ration Challenge and already suffering from headaches. This week I am eating the same rations that are distributed to Syrian refugees in Jordan and as I’ve discovered while trying to plan my meals in advance – it’s going to be tricky to make the small amount of beans and pulses last seven days.

It will be interesting to see how the lack of protein affects me this week, as someone who drinks a lot of coffee, I am already feeling the effects of caffeine withdrawal. I managed to procure five teabags as part of a fundraising ‘reward’, so I am currently attempting to make one teabag stretch to make six cuppas.

Warrington Guardian:

The ration pack, pictured, includes:

  • 170g of lentils
  • 420g rice
  • 85g of dried chickpeas
  • a 400g tin of kidney beans
  • 330ml of vegetable oil
  • A couple of coupons to get some extra rice and flour (here it’s 1.5kg of rice and 400g of flour). These extra components represent what refuges can buy with coupons given by other aid agencies.
  • Tin of sardines (I’m vegan, so I have replaced this with extra chickpeas).

Being able to swap the sardines made me wonder what the situation concerning dietary requirements would be for refugees, such as food intolerances and allergies to wheat.

I asked one of the campaign organisers and they said: “Dietary requirements of refugees are taken into account when it comes to food rations they receive.

“Our local partner on the ground in Jordan runs focus groups with Syrian families, where they discuss the family's food needs. And some of the food items in the pack have been changed based on families' recommendations.

“The ration packs are made up of staples and non-perishable foods which Syrian people would regularly use in their cooking. Some of the families in Jordan who receive these food packs have other food sources to help supplement their diet."

Warrington Guardian:

Breakfast - one small flat bread and black tea

Why help refugees?

There are now nearly 80 million people globally who have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict or disaster, the most on record according to stats from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. They are already living a nightmare, and now, because of the coronavirus pandemic, many more will face devastating hunger.

Refugees are just like us, only they have been forced into a terrible situation, making them more vulnerable to the virus. They want the same things any of us do – safety, dignity, and the ability to rebuild their lives.

And, if you think the amount of ration food seems small, there isn’t enough money to give ration packs to everyone who needs them according to Concern Worldwide. Sometimes the charity can only provide 100 packs in a camp that needs thousands. People get by however they can, packs get shared and many go without.

Warrington Guardian:

My first ration meal of beans and rice

I am donating the average cost of a week’s food (what I would have eaten this week if not on rations) to my local community fridge. I’m doing this because I believe that you can support more than one cause – it doesn’t have to be either, or.

Eating rations is just a small glimpse into part of life as a refugee. I am lucky that I have a home and a job and that I am not living with an uncertain future due to the trauma of war. The money raised from the Ration Challenge helps provide emergency food, hygiene kits and life-saving support for people hardest hit by the crisis.

I’ll be reporting back in a week’s time with a diary of what meals I created from the rations and what it feels like to live off a restricted diet.