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Second Harvest Community Food Bank Blog

Stacy Fisher Reflects on her SNAP Challenge

By Stacy Neibling Fisher, Director of Marketing

As the final day of my SNAP Challenge nears, I can't help but feel one thing...relief. This Challenge hasn't been easy. For five days, I've tried to live on two merger meals a day while my stomach growled in protest. Like I said, I'm relieved. I am so glad I didn't pledge to take the Challenge for seven days. I know how selfish that sounds, but my lack of food intake has caused low blood sugar attacks and mood swings. I'm pretty sure my husband would have traded me in for a newer model if my Challenge lasted much longer.

Even though I'm relieved my Challenge is over, I am also filled with guilt. You see, my struggles will vanish soon, but for thousands of people in our region, these struggles are a 365-day reality. I've worked for Second Harvest Community Food Bank for three years. During that time, I've seen myself as a hunger advocate. I've met hundreds of beautiful people who've come to our doors for assistance and have made invaluable friendships. However, it wasn't until this past week that I could say what it felt like to go to bed hungry. I can't imagine being a child and having that empty feeling in your stomach, or being a parent knowing you don't have enough money to put food on the table for your family. This Challenge has given me a glimpse into what living on a SNAP budget might feel like...and I can say, it isn't easy.

The SNAP Challenge encourages participants to get a sense of what life is like for millions of low-income Americans facing hunger. While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) provides monthly benefits to supplement the food budgets of families in need, in many cases the benefits are inadequate and families still struggle to put food on the table. Often times, folks are faced with purchasing cheap food over healthy food because the cheap food is more affordable. I found out quickly that it was very difficult to create a healthy meal with a budget of only $4.50 a day. That amount of money made it very difficult to purchase healthy fruit and vegetables, items that are vital to our health. My husband has health issues that require him to live a mostly vegetarian lifestyle. I originally wanted him to take the Challenge with me, but he was afraid he wouldn't get the nutrition our doctor recommends. And he was right...I didn't eat vegetables for five days.

Sharing my journey has been a very rewarding experience. Not only have I walked a mile in someone else shoes, I have also learned something about myself...I am wasteful. When I go to the grocery store, I never look at prices. I just buy things and often times throw things away because I've let them spoil. When you only have a finite amount to spend, you make educated decisions and you certainly don't waste. Today, I found an email in my inbox from a friend who offered me helpful tips for living on a budget. Her clever ideas allow her to keep her grocery bill under $130 a week for a family of four. I'd like to take a minute to share these invaluable tips.


Eating on a Budget:

1. Price Match and buy generic - You will save the most by price matching. While you are grocery shopping, try to keep your price match items on one side of the cart so you can seperate them on the conveyor belt and tell your prices to the cashier all at once.

2. Buy the newspaper on Wednesday & Sunday and save the local store ads - Make sure you pay close attention to the local store ads. Sometimes the best deals are only good on Thursday & Friday.

3. Plan every meal and snack based on what you find on sale - http://www.digimamas.com/price-match-coupon-printable/ You can find a price matching tracking sheet by clicking on this link and also some great information on price matching.  http://www.digimamas.com/grocery-store-list-printable/ is a great grocery list template. There are also websites that generate recipes based on random ingredients you enter.

4. Clip coupons - You can use coupons on top of your price matching. The best place to get coupons is online (coupons.com), the sunday paper, Facebook and manufacturer websites.

5. Eat oatmeal - For breakfast, oatmeal is a delicious, affordable option that can last you all week by spending $1-$2 for one container. Include a spoonful of peanut butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar to make your oatmeal extra yummy. 

In conclusion, I want to say thank you to Feeding America for promoting the SNAP Challenge. (I'd also like to thank my husband for not killing me when my mood swings kicked in.) My journey is one I'll never forget. Now that I've had a glimpse at what vulnerable families in our communities face each day, my desire to spread hunger awareness has amplified. I want to be a sounding board for those in our region who don't have a voice. Their stories deserve to be heard. No one deserves to go hungry. It's unacceptable. Change is possible. We just have to be willing to open our eyes and hearts. We have to be willing to be the change and stand up for what we believe in.

Posted by Stacy Neibling Fisher - Thursday, 09/19/13, 10:02 PM - Comments - Category: Advocacy

Comments

Comment by Regina on September 20, 2013 - 12:11 AM
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Stacy,

You have always been an awesome hunger advocate, now you have added empathy to that awesome and it will only make you more caring, determined and committed. YOU ROCK!!

Thank you for all you do to help encourage and nourish your neighbors!

Comment by Jennye on September 20, 2013 - 12:50 AM
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Thank you for sharing this. You brought me to tears. We live such privileged lives without even knowing sometimes. I'm glad you're an advocate, and thanks for teaching all of us.

Comment by Stacy Neibling Fisher on September 20, 2013 - 10:44 AM
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Regina & Jennye,

Thank you both for your kind words. I'm very grateful to have gone through this journey. It has turly been life-changing.

Stacy

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