Like many high school girls, this weekend Nayara Colon will be shopping. But unlike most, she’ll be at the supermarket, trying to stretch the $12.25 she’ll spend to feed herself for the week. Nayara will begin blogging about her experience eating on $1.75 a day, the amount of money a person working a full-time job at minimum wage would have if they spent 10 percent of their income on food.
The inspiration for her blog project was Hunger 101, a program Connecticut Food Bank and the Junior League of Greater New Haven brought to her service learning class this fall. Her service learning teacher, Aaron Stelson, now a Hunger 101 facilitator himself, helped Nayara design and propose her project to a panel of community members who granted her the money to carry it out. “Mr. Stelson also helped me set up the blog,” Nayara said.
Nayara, a sophomore at Amistad-Elm City High School in New Haven, has been volunteering with anti-hunger efforts since childhood, when her mother took her and her sister to the streets of Hartford and Puerto Rico to deliver home-cooked meals to the homeless. Nayara had seen hunger first hand on the streets. But Hunger 101 helped her to understand food insecurity, the persistent anxiety of not knowing where your next meal is coming from, that so many low-income families experience.
Hunger 101 is an interactive hunger education program offered by Connecticut Food Bank and facilitated by trained volunteers, including three members of the Junior League of Greater New Haven. Participants, using budget scenarios of people who use food assistance charities, navigate public assistance and other community resources to plan three meals a day for a family. The simulation forces participants to experience the frustration and anxiety felt by those who are food insecure. “I thought about how it affects kids in those families, not just physically, but also mentally and socially. Food is something kids look forward to throughout the day. It gives them energy to focus in school,” Nayara explains.
Despite the apprehensions of Nayara’s mother, Nayara expects to experience some of those effects herself next week, when she subjects herself to food insecurity. Her objective, she explains, is “to educate others about hunger. I hope that a lot of people will read my blog and realize that people on the minimum wage have trouble feeding themselves.” Each day, Nayara will post her menu and some pictures of what she’s eaten. She’s cooking all her own food and passing on school lunch. At the end of the day, she’ll report on how she’s feeling. After her fianl reflection on the experiment, Nayara hopes to keep up the blog and continue educating the community about how hunger affects the working poor.
You can read Nayara’s blog at: http://blogs.achievementfirst.org/ncolon/?p=15&preview=true.
If you are interested in hosting a Hunger 101 for your group or organization, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 203-469-5000.