I failed the SNAP challenge….
I could never be poor. I say this with the utmost respect for the families, individuals and seniors who fight the battle of poverty every day, because quite frankly- its crap. That is not to say that I live the life of luxury and ease. For most of my short life I have worked 2 or 3 jobs at a time, and I do live on a budget. However, that is completely different than living at or near the poverty line in America today.
When I first heard of the SNAP challenge, I thought it would be piece of cake living on $31.50 a week. I budget $40 a week for groceries so I figured I could go one week living on a bit less. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how often I eat out.
Nevertheless, when I started out all I could think was that this would be easy for me. I am a single person so I didn’t have to worry about feeding the kids or separating my grocery items for a week from the rest of the family. I am also one of those people who can’t keep a goldfish alive so I didn’t have to worry about feeding the dog. Literally, all I had to do was keep myself alive on $31.50 a week, and I failed. As a matter of fact, I failed big time.
To start with, I managed to stay under the $31.50 budget at the grocery store, which gave me a false sense of accomplishment. As such, the first day I was excited for the challenge. Having already bought my grocery items I had it planned out in my mind what I would eat. I packed up my lunch and afternoon snack and I was good to go! Consequently, the first day was pretty easy.
The second day was where things started to go awry. I started the day off by forgetting my lunch. I stressed all day about food or my lack thereof and so I waited until I got home that night to eat. At this point I was literally starving so I ate whatever I could make the fastest. Turns out, pre-packaged cookies are pretty easy to prepare. Because I was so hungry I ate an entire section of cookies and went to bed that night feeling pretty horrible. Physically, my stomach was in knots after starving all day and eating cookies for dinner, while mentally I was drained from worrying all day and anxious about facing the challenge the next day.
On the third day, I failed. I woke up with a headache, got showered, dressed and drove to the nearest coffee shop and purchased a tall, turtle mocha for $4.55 and left a $1.00 tip. I have never been so ashamed and yet so happy in my whole life. I sat in my car like a teenager skipping class and relished in my sugar-infused coffee drink. For me, that coffee symbolized the end of my hunger. If only it were that easy for the hungry families, individuals and seniors across the state of Iowa.
Yesterday, the last day of September’s Hunger Action month, felt like a good time to reflect on the challenges of hunger. I learned that hunger is only the beginning of what it feels like to not have food. It’s not just physical, but more importantly it is mentally draining. For me, the stress and anxiety that accompany hunger made the challenge simply overwhelming. For the thousands of Iowans who face hunger every day, overwhelming doesn’t even begin to explain their challenge.
– Katie Reidy