Recently, a lot of people did — and some of them didn’t even have to.
They took part in the Food Stamp Challenge, to experience what it’s like to live on a food stamp budget. Here in New York, several people involved with Catholic Charities blogged about the experience. It’s eye-opening.
The ground rules:
1. Each person can only spend a total of $31.50 on food and beverages during the Challenge week – this translates to $4.50 per day, or $1.50 per meal.
2. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including fast food and dining out must be included in the total spending.
3. During the Challenge, eat only food that you purchase for the project. Do not eat food that you already own (this does not include spices and condiments).
4. Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work, including food at receptions or coffee in the office
5. Please keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of your experiences throughout the week.
6. Share your Food Stamp Challenge by writing an op-ed for your local newspaper, blogging, sharing a reflection on the Fighting Poverty with Faith website, advocating for feeding programs, and more.
7. Donate the additional money you would have spent on food during this week to a local food bank or anti-hunger advocacy organization (optional).
It only took a few days of painfully bland but carefully rationed canned soup dinners to (1) realize that I was depriving myself of energy and (2) understand why obesity is more prevalent among the poorer American population.
Yesterday, after my banana-and-yogurt breakfast, I went to the gym – and approximately 20 minutes into my workout, I flat out ran out of gas.
I was getting used to subduing my hunger, but there was no trick to get around the fact that my body was not ingesting enough calories to sustain myself. With barely $2 left for “emergency” food, I darted into the nearest Burger King.
Over the past few days, my caloric intake was barely getting past 1000. And yes, that is partly my fault for not properly strategizing my grocery list. Looking at the calorie counts on the menu board, it was easy to find single items with two times the calories I was now used to ingesting. I dove into a whopper and fries and threw up my white flag for the day.
Then I looked around, and saw a number of families with children also feasting on their meals. I saw a number of elderly folks as well. The place was packed and it wasn’t even noon. This can’t be right, I thought.
When you are hungry, the last thing on your mind is nutrition. And when you are poor, fast food is a cheap remedy for an empty stomach. It’s largely by design that so many fast food chains are in poor urban areas. I know how bad fast food is nutritionally, but when I was hungry, with little more than spare change in my pocket, there was no way I could pass up a Whopper.
Read more. With Thanksgiving next week, I can’t think of a better time to look more closely at what we have, and what so many others don’t.