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Second Harvest Community Food Bank Blog

My SNAP Challenge

by Chad Higdon, Executive Director

My wife and I have a very imperfect and understanding relationship.  I am imperfect and she is understanding.  If that isn’t challenging enough, just add in the chaos of three very active children that are still hitting single digits on the age spectrum and our wonderful pound puppy we adopted this summer.

So trying to balance everything going on in our lives, similar to many families in our age range, it may or may not surprise you that chores or household activities are divided more than they are probably shared for us.  And when it comes to who inventories our household items, ventures to the store and purchases our needs and wants, and then prepares those meals for our family, I end up ranking very low on the part of that responsibility I manage.

So when our staff at Second Harvest Community Food Bank approached me about taking the SNAP Challenge (formerly food stamps) during Hunger Action Month in September,  I really had to think about how I could make this work.   I first questioned if trying to spend only $4.50 on food each day would really give me the best picture of what living on food stamps looks like.  I tried to think of a scenario for my family I could emulate that would give me the truest picture of the challenges those we serve face on a daily basis. 

I then had a staff member help me figure out what it might look like if both my wife and I would find ourselves unemployed at the exact same time.  In a very detailed email she explained to me the maximum Missouri unemployment benefits, various deductions and determined I might be able to expect a $411 SNAP allotment each month.  It was then suggested a family of five might try to live on $95.55 for the week, needing to feed my family a total of 105 meals that week.

I have complete confidence that my wife would be able to sustain our family on this allotment.  I, on the other hand, would be in some serious trouble as I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  Add in the fact that I’m allergic to peanut butter, so PBJs are out of the equation, and it certainly does not help.  And as interested as I am in trying to see what poverty looks like for a young family of five, I certainly would not tell my six year old who comes to me saying he is hungry that I can’t help him.  Just imagining that disturbs me and must be tough for any father who has had to tell his son just that.

So while I don’t think I’m going to be able to attempt something structured for a family, I am committed to seeing what I can do trying to survive on a food allowance of $4.50 per day.  With that I am also interested in exploring other exercises that would help me see the true face of hunger.  Opportunities include visiting the Open Door Food Kitchen for an afternoon meal and in exchange likely donating some time and money for allowing me or anyone else that visits a guaranteed meal to eat regardless of your circumstance.  If you have ideas on how I can better understand the challenges of those dependent on SNAP benefits please send those to our staff, as I would certainly be willing to explore your ideas.

I am also excited to announce that Second Harvest’s entire board of directors and several staff members have also agreed to join me in this challenge in September.  If you are interested in learning more about how you could take the Challenge, please contact our staff as we would be glad to share information and would love for you to share your personal story with us following your own experience.

We all live in very different circumstances, and it is hard to use an exercise to replicate all too often real life scenarios of others.  And while I can’t say that I know exactly what will come of this or what I will be able to say I have learned, one thing I will be able to say is that I tried.  Hopefully this exercise helps me better understand hunger and how our organization can work to address hunger and poverty issues in the communities we serve. 

Follow my journey through the SNAP Challenge.  I’ll write regular blog posts to discuss my experiences. Also, follow the rest of my SNAP Challenge team.  Their progress will be posted via Facebook and Twitter.

To learn more about the SNAP Challenge, click here.

Our SNAP Challenge Team:

  1. Bridget Blevins – KQ2
  2. Sarah Hatten – KQ2
  3. Barry Birr – KFEQ
  4. Chad Higdon – Second Harvest
  5. Stacy Neibling Fisher – Second Harvest
  6. Tamara Grubb – Second Harvest
  7. Christine Feuerbacher – Second Harvest
  8. Aaron Smullin – Second Harvest
  9. Second Harvest Board

Posted by Stacy Neibling Fisher - Wednesday, 09/04/13, 03:13 PM - Comments - Category: Advocacy


Comment by Bonnie Clinton on September 10, 2013 - 12:23 AM

Chad, I live on a disability check of 814 dollars a month. I am only getting 60 dollars in food stamps. My son draws a ssi check of 450 dollars. If it wasn't for food pantries and Second Harvest..I would be choosing to do with out my heart meds and copd meds.most of my money goes to rent and utlities. recently I had to choose between gas or lights..I chose lights..because i cook with electricity.You be amaze what u can do with a few fresh veggies and ground turkey or hotdogs.Wherever I go I boost u guys up to anyone who will hear me. and please check out The food kitchen. they are wonderful and serve a good hot meal..even if it is once a day. salvation Army gives out sack lunches. and i know one church in southside serves hot meal in the evening. What is the sad part is much of the food waste is from Restraunts. They throw away many good food ss and food.

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