On the surface, that question may seem ludicrous. Of course we would never intentionally plan on looting to feed our families, but unintentionally, is it a possibility?
I came across an article from the Associated Press titled “Venezuelans ‘Loot to Eat’ Amid Economic Tailspin”. The country is facing not only severe economic challenges but as a result devastating food shortages. At the country’s biggest port in Puerto Cabello, people are swarming corn-carrying trucks and filling up sacks with the grain while the drivers are held at gunpoint.
The article went on to report that even though the truck driver was afraid for his life, he sympathizes with his impoverished countrymen, who are becoming desperate amid Venezuela’s widespread food shortages and sky-high inflation.
“They have to loot to eat,” he said.
“Sporadic looting, food riots and protests driven by the hungry poor have surged in Venezuela, a country that’s no stranger to unrest”, the article continues. “These protests are coming from people of the lower classes who simply cannot get enough to eat,” said David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America.
I’ll never forget an experience I had many years ago while selling food storage by giving in-home presentations. I had made an appointment with a family in a rural area of a small community and was hopeful I would be able to help them prepare by selling them a year’s supply of long-term food storage. Part of my presentation focused around how much a typical family would spend on a monthly basis for food and as a result, show how economical our food storage plan was.
This was a family of eight, two adults and six kids so I was assuming they spent $500 to $800 per month on food (keep in mind, this was more than 25 years ago and the cost would be much greater today). As my presentation proceeded, I asked the father how much they spent on a monthly basis at the grocery store. When he answered, I thought I misheard him so I asked him to repeat his answer. He replied that they spent about $50 per month. I was shocked! Even though they lived in a rural area, I didn’t see any garden or method of raising their own food so I was quite mystified by his answer.
I followed up by asking how on earth it was is possible to feed a family of eight on only $50 per month. He replied by saying they didn’t shop in the front of the store, they shopped in the back. Still confused, I asked him to clarify what he meant. He hesitated for a moment and then said, “You wouldn’t believe how much food grocery stores throw away.” It then all became clear. He and his family were dumpster diving in the back of the grocery store to secure enough food to feed their family. It became very obvious that they had very little money and were willing to do whatever it took to feed their family. Needless to say, I did not make the sale but I did learn a lot as to the measures individuals would take to keep from going without.
I learned another valuable lesson about how the lack of food can totally change your behavior back in August of 2005 when I was caught in hurricane Katrina. Here is an excerpt from my journal.
“Monday morning, August 29th, we woke up early and immediately turned on the TV to get the latest on Katrina. It was really pretty scary. Katrina had developed into a category 5 hurricane and was just beginning to pound New Orleans – right where we had just escaped from just a day and a half earlier.”
“There was a light rain outside but what really caught our eye was the way the clouds were moving. I have never seen clouds like that before. They were swirling around so fast, twisting sometimes in smaller circles inside of larger ones and coming closer to the ground than I had expected.”
“My son and I were still determined to take care of business and planned on attending a real estate auction that morning. On our way to the courthouse, we felt impressed to fill our tank – just in case. We still didn't think we would be affected much by Katrina. We assumed it would die out or go off in another direction.”
“We hadn't been at the courthouse more than an hour when they told us to evacuate, that the hurricane was headed right for us. I feel kind of stupid saying this now, but we were really kind of excited. We thought this was going to be just a fun adventure.”
“Having never experienced a hurricane before, we were anxious to see what it would be like. I remember laughing as we ran to our car because it was raining so hard, it seriously felt like buckets of warm water were being poured on us.”
“We drove back to our hotel and turned on the TV. We were told that an area wide curfew would go into effect at noon. I looked at my watch and realized we had only about 30 minutes before the curfew and we had no food, water or supplies of any kind.”
“We decided to try and find a place to buy some food and water before it was too late. As soon as we left the hotel, all the power went out in the entire area. All the stores were closed. We could not find a single place to purchase anything.”
“As we were returning to our hotel, I noticed a gas station with several cars parked out front. It looked like there were people inside the little mini mart and I could see that the door was open. We immediately pulled in and I ran inside to find several people buying up everything they could. They had to have cash since the power was off. I was immediately struck with the negative, dark side of not being prepared. I wasn't the least bit concerned about anyone else but me and mine. The thought of sharing with others was the last thing on my mind. It's terrible to say but I was ready to even get physical if necessary to get what we needed.”
“They had one of those little food bars with potato logs and fried chicken, etc. I bought everything I could (there wasn't much left) along with several bottles of water and Gatorade. I luckily had enough cash in my pocket to cover the cost."
"After I paid for the food we headed back to the hotel and rationed out the food, not knowing how long it would be before we could get more.”
There was much, much more that my son and I learned during those challenging several days as we tried to escape the devastating effects of Katrina. But the most important lesson I learned was the psychological and emotional effect of not being prepared and trying to figure out where your next meal would come from.
You see, at home I am very well prepared to weather just about any storm, but being thousands of miles away from home on a business trip with zero preps, it was a real eye opener. Maybe one of the most concerning parts of it all was knowing that if things got bad enough, one would lie, cheat, steal and maybe even worse to keep their loved ones from starving. As a result of that experience, I recommitted to doing all that I can so that the day would never come where I would need to “loot to eat.”