Much to the surprise of my wife and I, you can eat healthy…some of the time. The dinner in the photo above cost $3 – $3.50, above our average cost of $2.00. As soon as you go for the real healthy meals it does tap the rest of your budget. If I were to have to live on a low budget long-term, there definitely would be some education to pursue about budget stretching. I have access to chefs and a dietician at Second Harvest so lots of suggestions and advice are forthcoming and very helpful. However, think about most of the people who rely on SNAP and the fact they most likely don’t have access to such insight. One of the outcomes of this experience is the fact that Second Harvest will look at what resources are needed to provide more education to the people we serve when it comes to nutrition and shopping on a budget. When you consider that Second Harvest reaches approximately 700,000 different people each year through our partners, there’s a lot of potential to share knowledge along with the 39 million pounds of food provided.
One of my granddaughter’s birthday party saved the day in terms of satisfying my hunger. Beyond celebrating her third birthday, there was plenty of barbecue, mashed potatoes, vegetables and dessert. I started off the party with two chocolate milkshakes. See, I could use the “excuse” of eating as much as possible because it was someone else’s generosity and invitation. There’s no doubt that many people in a low income situation take advantage of these social settings when possible. Just for the record, I did not steal my granddaughter’s cupcake.
The Bigger Picture
I have to say that I’m glad my wife and I did this experience, it taught us a lot over seven days. Thank goodness, we are not in a situation where this is ongoing month in and month out. We’re also glad it’s over for us; we were so much better prepared to go through this that it hardly reflects the reality of those who do. We had a stock of staples in our pantry when we started. We knew that in a week we could go back to normal eating habits. We knew we could bale on the experience at any time if we wished to do so. And now we can look forward to all the extras that someone on a low income would consider a luxury or a wish — going to the movies, concert or basketball game, having friends over for dinner and so much more beyond the basic needs.
In addition, the bigger picture for people on low incomes includes many other factors that put financial pressure on a meager household income. Can they afford to even have a car and put gas in it? What about the utility bill being overdue? Rent or mortgage has to be covered or they’re homeless. Day care costs can be close to the amount of a rent payment and in many cases higher. What about healthcare? Can they find the kind of job to pay for these basics? Many people say…”How do these people manage?” My response is they can’t make ends meet because the math doesn’t work. You have to earn about $15 per hour to afford a decent 2-3 bedroom apartment. Many of our neighbors, if they’re working, are earning less. And keep in mind; many of the people we’re talking about have jobs.
What Can We Do?
For those of you, who already support the fight against hunger, thank you. For those of you who have not connected yet, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Second Harvest, we would be glad to provide you with lots of ideas on how to make a difference. If you have not had a tour of our new facility, please come by and we would be glad to provide one. We know you won’t leave the same.
Finally, let’s figure out how, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, that no one who works full-time or have for their careers, retired and paid into Social Security, should have to go without the basic need of food.