If you’re an abled person, the chances are you have the time and ability to cook for yourself; to browse through the supermarket and tut smugly at the seemingly pointless pre-prepared food. Indeed, events of the past few weeks how shown just how easy it is to snap a photo of a pre-peeled orange or ‘cauliflower steak’ and post it on Twitter with a rant about how lazy people must be to use pre-chopped vegetables wrapped in unnecessary amounts of plastic.
But by doing so – by taking to Twitter and ranting about pre-prepared food – you completely ignore the thousands of disabled people like me who rely on pre-prepared food.
If you aren’t aware, recently on Twitter a user posted a photo of an M&S ‘cauliflower steak’ (which, to you and I is just a sliced cauliflower) along with a rant at the amount of packaging used (as well as the price) for a food item that is available to buy whole, without the plastic wrapping. To them, the idea of cutting up a cauliflower seemed like a simple task. But for disabled people like myself, those tasks aren’t so easy. I have never cut up a cauliflower, simply because I physically cannot.
The response that followed shocked me. A general conversation about pre-cut food began, and the word ‘lazy’ was thrown about a lot, while the original concern about excessive packaging was largely lost. Suddenly, anyone and everyone who relied on pre-prepared vegetables was single-handedly responsible for climate change.
“Many people have said that disabled people’s carers should be making them food. And maybe that would be a viable solution, if the government weren’t continually cutting social care.”
Because of the Twitter storm around the cauliflower steak, M&S removed the item from the stores – thereby removing an accessible food product that could help disabled people eat healthily. There was little to no conversation about recyclable or biodegradable packaging; M&S didn’t look at ways they could sell the product at an affordable price without the excess plastic. Instead, disabled people were branded lazy and the product was taken away.
Without pre-prepared, packaged food, I would most certainly be relying on ready meals for most of my meals. Not only are ready meals often expensive and unhealthy, but it can also get very boring eating the same microwavable meals day in, day out. Luckily for me, my local shop offers a wide range of accessible food – everything from pre-cut carrot sticks to fruit pots containing sliced apple and mango. I have a variety of option to choose from when considering breakfast and lunch (and I live at home, so tea is often made for me). If these conversations about pre-prepared and packaged food continue without disabled people’s input though, I will lose more and more of these options.
Of course, this argument isn’t enough to convince some people. Many people have said that disabled people’s carers should be making them food. And maybe that would be a viable solution, if the government weren’t continually cutting social care. As it is, I was recently told that I shouldn’t expect to get care hours for cooking when I move out of my family home, and that I’m not entitled to support because I can use a microwave.
I made it my mission last week to educate as many people as possible about the importance of accessible food — I even ended up on the Channel 4 news – and I’ve lost count of how many people have said that they hadn’t even considered this side of the argument, proving once again that even educated allies don’t always remember to consider the needs of disabled people.
So next time you go to ridicule a product because it seems pointless and unnecessary, think about the impact your words could have. Something which seems lazy to you could be vital to someone else.