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HunGRy - Day Six

October 4th, 2011

DAY SIX - Monday, September 19

I’ve lost four pounds in the past five days. That’s something that I can’t do counting calories. (I can count too high!) When I am seriously working to stay within my food allowance of $4.37 a day, I just can’t afford to eat enough relatively healthful food to maintain my current weight. (Phil has told me for years that controlling portion size is the secret to staying at a healthy weight.) For me that’s been a side benefit of this experiment. It doesn’t work that well for people who cannot find the low-calorie, high-fiber, low-sodium kinds of food that I’ve been eating. More often than not an extremely limited food budget translates to obesity. Fatty, fried and starchy foods are often cheaper and more available than fresh fruits and vegetables and other good-for-you foods.

[Today is the sixth 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.]

Today our office celebrated the return of a previous staff member who will be visiting/consulting with us for a week, so pizza was the order of the day for lunch. I had two normal-sized pieces (loaded with veggies) for $2.50. Breakfast had been a poached egg on toast with two slices of bacon for a total cost of 55 cents and 210 calories if anybody else is counting. A cup of coffee with milk added 20 cents.

Would it have been smarter to skip the pizza and eat a can of green beans for lunch for 50 cents? Yes, but everybody else was having pizza. I wanted to join in the fun. Eating is fun. Ergo: I eat—what they’re eating if I can. I’m reminded of my Mom asking the traditional question about jumping off a building. Would I do that because everybody else was doing it? I never told you, Mom, but, I know now. Yes. Yes, I would do something not so smart to be part of what is going on around me. Humans are very social creatures.

So speaking of social outlets, let me interject again that there are some ways to supplement that infinitesimal food allowance from SNAP. You can even enjoy some social times at no cost. God’s Kitchen Too provides excellent meals in a homey, welcoming environment at numerous churches in the area. I joined our friends at St. John Vianney Church in Wyoming and ran into several families that I knew from UCOM. It was a very good meal in pleasant surroundings and we had better service than many restaurants at which I have eaten. Lolo’s Café provides free home-cooked dinners for seniors once a month at her lovely restaurant on Kalamazoo SE at Langley, just north of 44thStreet. Call her to find out about that.

These are all wonderful ways to make the best of a bad situation. Ideally, there would be enough for everyone.  While most of the world centers on a model of greed and territoriality with food and every other good thing, though, the compassionate and the needy may have to lean on one another, giving with generosity and receiving with grace.

How in the world does one go about eating on $4.37 a day—every day?

Read the Day Five Blog.

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