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HunGRy - Day Three

September 19th, 2011

DAY THREE - Friday, September 16

Confession: OK, I admit it; I cheated on my commitment tonight. What’s worse, I did it deliberately. In my defense, I must say that I had declared this intention when I took the pledge.

[Today is the third day of my participation in the HunGRy? Week challenge to limit myself to the foods I could purchase with SNAP funds. The average is $30.59 per person per week, that’s $4.37 a day. For this challenge, I cannot receive free food. Everything, including the cost of eating out, has to be included in this incredibly small amount of money. I wanted this experience to help me to empathize with people for whom this is the extent of their food budget. To read the previous day's blog, click here.]

TEMPTATION

My daytime eating went well. I had water for breakfast and a slice of homemade pizza for lunch. For a snack I had a can of peas. Total cash outlay $1.69. I had some hungry times that were mostly banished by keeping busy at my desk clearing up an unending stack of TO DOs. I knew I was on the edge, though, when I was tempted by a package of Ramen Noodles. Fortunately I heard the voices of my friends reminding me that I need to make this a healthful diet on a ridiculously small budget so I passed on the high calorie, high sodium 35 cent treat. I did think about it twice though. It really is cheaper to eat badly than to eat well.

THE DINNER PARTY

My cheat was a dinner party with a few friends. This had been planned for weeks and I had announced at the start of my commitment that I was deviating on this one night. (This was all “free” food, but part of the commitment to empathizing with people on a SNAP food budget is that I will not eat free food this week.) My realization is that, as a member of the quickly disappearing economic middle status, I indulged in this luxury that people who are really facing food insecurity could not have. If I had been paying for the food and drink I had tonight, it would have consumed most of my budget for the week. In ONE night!

INTRODUCING SUPPLEMENTAL FOOD—CALL 211

Maybe this is as good a time as any to introduce a parallel thought. There are some ways to supplement the ridiculously small amount of SNAP funds that are available to most people. I know this because of my position in the emergency and supplemental food system. Part of my reason for taking the challenge and writing about it is to let a wider section of our community know that there is nutritious food available from 100 pantries in Kent County. UCOM provided groceries last year for half a million meals for our neighbors who are living on low incomes. There are Feeding America food trucks that are sponsored at various locations around the area. These boast 5,000 to 7,500 pounds of food for people coping with food insecurity. You can connect with these through your local food pantry. Other resources are available for specific categories of people. Calling 211 at United Way of West Michigan connects you with a wide range of resources that will help.

There are some ways that you can stretch those unbelievably small SNAP payments and retain your dignity at the same time. I think my “cheating” with a dinner party tonight inspired me to let you in on ways that people on really constrained food budgets can have more and better food than if they are limited to SNAP funds only.

ON WITH THE CHALLENGE WEEK

One night of cheating has not deterred me from my determination to empathize with those who often face the insecurity of having too little money for food, so tomorrow I am back at it. Frankly I am not looking forward to a weekend with a food budget of $4.37 a day. I bet very few people do.

Read the Day Two blog.

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