Disability doesn’t look the same for everyone, and nor does the way that disability impacts a person’s relationship with food.
The media-generated “ideal” version of ourselves that exclusively enjoys lovingly hand-made meals using only the fanciest, freshest ingredients isn’t just unattainable for most disabled people – it’s often not what we need.
The issue of fair access to healthy, nutritious food is multi-faceted; it’s not just about better-designed kitchens and more accessible recipes (though of course they would be a great start), it’s about breaking down the barriers disabled people face and acknowledging that “healthy” means different things to different people.
For example, some disabled people need to eat the same few meals every day, sometimes as a result of sensory needs or medications that affect a person’s ability to process certain foods. If you were to look at that person’s diet, the instinctive thing to do would be to label it as unhealthy.
But if we look at the alternative options available to that person, which are to eat foods that could trigger discomfort and even pain, or to not eat at all, clearly in the context of what their body needs they are doing the healthiest thing.
As long as I am managing to sustain myself, that should be good enough for myself and everyone else.Ash
Similarly although cooking can be joyous, it’s also hard work. Have you ever found yourself hovering over a pan half an hour after you meant to serve, trying to not feel intimidated by the mammoth amount of dumplings you have left to fry? You’re frazzled, you’re sweaty and you wish you could just stick something in the microwave and call it a day? Now imagine you’ve also spent all day coping with pain, or the bureaucracy of the DWP, cooking in a kitchen that doesn’t work for your body and tools that are more frustrating than they are useful.
I don’t cook often, because it requires me to meal plan, buy specific ingredients (which involves going to the shops, and that takes a lot of time and a lot of energy, both mentally and physically)Bea
It’s time we acknowledged that cooking from scratch isn’t always a realistic option, and isn’t synonymous with achieving a “healthy” lifestyle. When I spoke with disabled people about what has helped them in accessing nutritious food the humble microwave proved to be a “godsend”, next to dishwashers and batch-cooking.
Microwaves might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think “healthy”, but for disabled people they’re often essential tools that can mean the difference between eating or going hungry. And ultimately, we should trust disabled people to know what is best for them.