Second Harvest Community Food Bank Blog
Programs Coordinator Begins her SNAP Challenge
By Christine Feuerbacher, Programs Coordinator
I’m not sure how to start this other than I am embarrassed by what I have learned so far. (Mostly about myself and my current habits.) I think that I am very tolerant and understanding about what the Members we serve go through and I think, I thought I had a good handle on it. I am starting to find that until you walk even slightly in their shoes, you have no idea. To be honest, I thought the SNAP (formerly food stamp) Challenge was basically silly. It’s not a “real” challenge because it doesn’t allow you to utilize community resources and gardens. It doesn’t take into account that many people have family and friends that help out in a pinch. Ok, so I justified that it was silly. However, I have come to realize in just one day that the Challenge gives you a pretty good idea of what it might be like to live one of our Member’s lives, if even for a second.
First, let me begin by telling you that my friends and I went out for dinner and drinks at a really nice restaurant Saturday night to celebrate a birthday. We spent what a family of four would spend for an entire week in just one meal. Wow, what we take for granted! Not only did we spend that much, but we left money to feed our kids and families, so that was additional money that was spent in a very small amount of time. Instant gratification…that is what our world is made up of and I have quickly realized that I am a strong participant in that kind of lifestyle.
I decided that I wanted to try and make things as realistic as possible so I asked my friends to participate with me in the SNAP Challenge. It made the most sense to me since the average family is made of four members. I knew that my preteen and teenage children would not be very excited about eating on $4.50 a day so I thought maybe my friends would be more willing. Much to my surprise they decided they would like to do it and so the journey began.
First, we decided how much we would have to spend for the week. We evaluated the schedules of each person and what would have to be done to cover the needs of each person. We started to decide what would be on the menu for the week. We established our shopping list and we went to the store. We talked about where we would shop. We decided since it was Sunday we would shop at the Super Center because we thought we could get the most for our dollar. However, we first went to the Dollar Store and found out what they had available so we could go back and get items if necessary. We started through the store with our list and calculator and we added as we went. I think it was the first time I was so cognitive of how much things cost. I am generally a thrifty shopper in ALL areas except for the grocery store. I do use coupons when I grocery shop, I do match prices when possible and I do want the best deal. I just tend to over buy and I am bad about impulse buys. My friend said she didn’t think she had ever used a calculator at the store and that it was a real eye-opener to be that aware of how much things cost. We were able to buy everything on our list…we just had to buy smaller quantities and different labels.
We discovered that the most difficult things to buy were meat and fresh fruit. We simply did not have the budget to buy much meat at all and we were not able to buy any fruit. We did buy cabbage instead of lettuce for salads and soup. We felt that it would be more hearty and able to last through the week without wilting. We bought several kinds of beans because they make good filler and they provide the protein to fill a person up.
For breakfast: Day #1
Toasted Peanut Butter & Jelly (I have never liked PB&J but it seemed most filling while at work.)
Lunch Day #1
Grilled Cheese/Ramen Noodles (I felt like I was in college again.)
Dinner Day #1
Chili (with A LOT of beans and very little meat) We were only able to buy 2.5 lbs. of hamburger for the week and a bag of chicken breast so we have to make it stretch as far as it will go.
We fed our kids chili. At first they didn’t want to eat because it had so many beans but in the end they all ate and we had some left to spread out through the week. One of the kids came back for more later in the evening. I found myself anxious about how we would have enough for the rest of the week. But really it’s just one more struggle that we became aware of just by living through this Challenge.
I had an egg sandwich and my coffee. I knew going into this that giving up caffeine was not an option. I could cut way back but had to start the day off with some go-juice.
I did not have lunch because I had meetings all day.
For dinner I had a bowl of left over chili and an ear of sweet corn.
I went to bed hungry. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t just go and pop a bag of popcorn or get something if I was still feeling hungry at night.
Today the caffeine agony set in. I got sluggish and irritable and I tried really hard to not be like that, but unfortunately I’m not sure I escaped. I’m sure my co-workers will be happy when I have completed this Challenge. I’m just very thankful that we have a beautiful place where our families that we serve can come and get items to help them stretch a very tight month. My hope and prayer would be that they are always treated with love and respect while they are here and that we always remember to not judge or assume we know what it is like to walk in anyone person’s shoes until we have been there ourselves. I sure hope tomorrow is a better day.
I am hoping today to spend less time at my desk and more time in Fresh Start. I have three appointments for SNAP applications and then if I can spend some time working in Fresh Start. I think it will help make it clear why I am taking this Challenge.
Ah, Success! I love when I get to spend time with our families and individuals that we serve. It is such an honor to be able to help them in their time of need. Remember we are not giving them a hand out, only a hand up. We are ALL just one paycheck away from needing to ask for help. I did three SNAP applications and helped people get their yellow cards today. I was so busy I forgot that I have had very little to eat today. I will be honest, my head is starting to hurt as I sit and reflect on my day, but today I am privileged to have experienced the Challenge with our families.
I had to break down and use some of my money to buy a Diet Coke. I spent a dollar and bought a large drink from McDonalds’s. It was the best thing ever! It gave me just enough energy to prepare pasta and sauce and a cabbage salad. (I had to buy cabbage instead of lettuce so it would last the entire week.) Both were very good and we fed everyone with plenty of leftovers. With only one day left, I plan to continue to plan and be conscious of how I spend money and be more careful about not taking food for granted.
I am a firm believer that hunger is not acceptable, for anyone. Please consider comin
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