Monday, December 9, 2013

SNAP Challenge, Take 2

SNAP - Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

SNAP Challenge - Live for a week on the current assistance - Was $36 per person in DC, now $30.

I just completed my second SNAP challenge, $30 for a week of food.  I chose to do it again now, just after Thanksgiving, because of the cuts that SNAP faced at the beginning of November. The last time I did SNAP, I did it on $36 for the week. $6 may not sound like a lot, but this past week, I realized just how much that $6 was worth.

Bottom line, I was hungry. And it sucked, and I am angry. Not for me, because this was my challenge for just a week. I am angry because I am aware more than ever how many people in this country are hungry right now, and that Congress is to blame for it, and needs to restore that funding immediately. There was no human reason to cut that crucial assistance, and I challenge each that voted to cut SNAP to do the challenge for a week.

Since I had done the challenge before, I already had my plan of what to eat.  I don’t eat fast food, and I am mostly vegetarian, although I love bacon and a piece of steak on occasion, things that were definitely not on my shopping list last week. I also chose not to buy milk and cheese, for as much as I love them, they are expensive and could easily eat up half of my budget.

My list from the grocery store included half and half, coffee, chobani yogurt, fage, orange juice, bread, oatmeal, almonds, and luna bars.

My list from the farmers market included spinach, squash, onion, apples and eggs. I am so proud to support FreshFarms market in Dupont every Sunday. It is fresh organic produce and eggs at a reasonable price, and for every SNAP dollar, you get $2 in farmer market dollars.  That means even more now with the cuts. The soup I made from the market ingredients and the spinach I ate with eggs or in a smoothie was the best food I ate all week. Including vegetables in a SNAP budget is so important, and I am so thankful that FreshFarm understands that, too.

What can I say about the week? I started on Sunday after Thanksgiving, and I made it (barely) through Saturday. By Friday, I was pretty much out of food. That’s when that missing $6 reared its ugly head and I realized a luna bar and a chobani was all I had til the end of Saturday.

That’s when I got really mad. And that’s when I saw your tweet about the SNAP challenge, and here we are. I have gone back to spending about $50 at the grocery store, and thousands upon thousands are once again living on that next $30 for a week of food.

It’s wrong, and I hope that may more folks that do this challenge and talk about what it really is like. Then maybe it will become understood that it is imperative that Americans do not go hungry if there is anything can be done about it. And of course there is. Restore the funding to SNAP is the first thing.

* note - this was written upon being asked to share my reflections with DC Hunger Solutions, who works to create a hunger-free community and improve the well-being of low-income DC residents.

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