I love a good challenge. As the new Mission Storyteller for Second Harvest Food Bank my role is to capture the work that is being done to end hunger in Central Florida and share those stories with you. That may sound simple enough, but there are so many moving parts to the food bank that it is a big job. Photos. Videos. Interviews. Blog entries. Facebook Live. Oh, and distilling reports down to just 140 characters… at least photos don’t count against me anymore – thanks, Twitter! Let’s just say I’m up to the task.
I decided one of the best ways to learn about all the facets of the food bank was to take on as many of the Hunger Action Month activities as possible. I attended a Food for Thought Tour, dined out for Taqueria Tuesday and liked, followed and tweeted about hunger. Then, I decided to take the SNAP Challenge. This decision required a little more effort. Since no man is an island, I had to convince my family to come along on this one.
For the SNAP Challenge my family of four would live off $6.67 per person per day. Full disclosure: I’m a meal planner and tend to build my grocery list from the sale flyer. I also coupon as much as possible. After a little math and some planning, I set out for the farmer’s market and then the grocery store.
I counted how many apples were in the bulk bag. I chose plums because they were on sale, and weighed them before they went in my cart. My kids like to weigh the fruit, even if it isn’t a per pound item, but this time it was a necessary step to keep us on track. I bought store brand half-and-half and sacrificed several items that my family loves. I did purchase a few higher quality items, like organic bread, and took advantage of as many BOGOs as possible. I also tracked down the meat manager to check for more of the ground turkey that was on sale to make my budget work, instead of just buying what was on the shelf. I managed to get out of the store with 8 cents to spare!
Here’s what my pantry and fridge looked like for the week, and snapshots of some of the meals we made:
Some reflections on the week:
- I ate out with co-workers for lunch one day. I budgeted $8 for this meal, more than my per person daily allotment. The SNAP Challenge says you can’t accept food from others, or share communal items when dining out. So I ate my two tacos, which were delicious, but it was difficult to abstain from the chips and guac that the group enjoyed.
- My husband takes a sandwich for lunch every day. The bread this week was a full loaf, but the slices were smaller than the kind we normally buy. These “tiny” sandwiches left him feeling less full, which prompted lots of conversations with his co-workers about what we were up to. He often felt like he was on restriction and wasn’t able to eat what he wanted or needed to. I did catch him attempting to make a peanut butter sandwich one morning, but that wasn’t in our SNAP pantry this week. That was the moment we realized how fortunate we are to have a fridge and pantry stocked with several options at all times.
- I posted updates on the challenge on my personal Facebook page throughout the week, sharing pictures of the meals we created and discussing with friends how my lifestyle affords me a library of cookbooks and access to recipes and coupon sites that ease the burden of this challenge. But I think the most telling moment was when someone asked, “Why are you doing this? It sounds awful and the kids must hate it.” My answer: Empathy.
There are 1 in 6 people in our community that struggle with hunger, and 1 in 4 kids is at risk of going to bed hungry tonight. To blissfully ignore these facts and shield my kids from what is statistically affecting at least 3 kids in my preschooler’s class isn’t doing anyone any favors. I want my kids to understand not only is it good and kind to help others but why we help those in need. And if limiting ourselves for one week and being a little creative with our options opens their eyes, and those beyond my four walls, then so be it.
Link: Learn more about SNAP.