Saturday, December 1, 2012

Episode 67: The SNAP Challenge

In an article I read yesterday on Flipboard (which means I can't find the link now that I want to write about. I must remember to use my media more wisely), Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, agreed to take on the challenge of a fellow Twitter user.  This Twitter user, who goes by the handle TwitWit, challenged Booker to what is being called the SNAP challenge. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, what we commonly refer to as Food Stamps.  This challenge asks that people live on what the government mandates is the minimum allowance for food.  In California, the maximum amount you can receive is $167 a month per person on average.  If you do the math for a 31 day month, that is $5.38 a day or approximately $1.80 per meal.

I know... that was a lot of math for me too...

So, AM and I were sitting down, talking about what life would be like if we had to live on this, and we decided to take the challenge.  What would it be like to live on an average of $1.80 per meal, and could you do it?  

What this means is that there is no eating out, no little extras. If we want something that we don't make ourselves, we have to fit that into the budget, but it also means that a lot of what we eat should be or will be made from scratch.  My bread machine is nice, and makes a good 1 pound loaf of bread for a bit under $2, but what does that mean?  How long will that bread last?  Can I live a full, nutritious successful life, making sure that I eat healthfully and still keep within that budget? 

I think we're going to start with just a week and see how it goes from there.  Many people who are doing the challenge (and quite a few are blogging about it), talk about how the lack of food is affecting their concentration, the constant hunger they feel is affecting how they interact with people and their job performance.  I'm curious to see how it will affect me.

The point of this project for me is to gain perspective on what that type of lifestyle is like.  I come from a middle class background.  I have a decent job, but I work with many students who come from low income houses.  Some are on the Free Lunch program. Sometimes, kids come to my class complaining of hunger and if I had a piece of fruit or something, I will offer it up to them and I know that many of them appreciate it.  I know I will never understand what some of them go through.  By doing this challenge, I hope to maybe gain some insight.  I will never say that I want to walk a mile in their shoes.  I will never know what their lives are like, what they experience or what they go through, but to gain some insight may be helpful.

AM and I were talking about this challenge. He pointed out that for the cost of the coffee that I get from Starbucks or the little coffee shop where we go to write, a person on Food Stamps is supposed to be eating two whole meals.  One venti white chocolate mocha = 2 meals.  I was floored when he pointed this out to me.  This idea that I could spend $4-5 on a cup of coffee, full of milk and caffeine and sugars that I don't really need really struck me as a difficult one to swallow, and made me look at myself closer.  Is it selfish of me to want to drink that $4 coffee (which I honestly don't really need) when someone else in the world goes hungry for one more day?  

I'm not going to completely give up the coffee forever, but this is the month where we really begin to think about charity, helping and giving to those in need as well as showing our family our appreciation.  If for at least a week, I can try to learn to understand this experience and it gives me a greater knowledge and compassion, I will be a better person for it.  If I get a chance, I will blog about it here.  I invite others to join me, or follow me or just learn more about it.  

Love and low fat foods!


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