Editor’s Note: Kathy Moran, a longtime volunteer and supporter of Connecticut Food Bank, agreed to take the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge last month and live on $4.45 a day for food for five days. We will post her experience in this blog over the next few days. In her fifth post, Kathy remembers the people she knew who had to struggle with hunger.
During the challenge, I was reminded of someone I worked with years ago who went through a time when she came in every day with a container of pasta with tomato sauce and a can of cheap, no-name, generic soda. There is someone else I know who goes out to fast food places almost every day to purchase a hot meal from the dollar menu. Another friend shared with me the fact that her family would sometimes be given cereal with water for supper, and sometimes no supper at all, when they were kids. Yet another person would walk over to a building where food would be put out for meetings so he could have breakfast or grab some leftover fruit or cookies to eat during the day (which, by the way, by law would have been thrown out if it wasn’t taken).
I spent a lot of time thinking about where our food comes from and what processes it goes through. I thought about our farmers, so careful with their crops, so they get as much out of each harvest as possible. I thought about the sustainable farming practices, and the shipment and storage of food. I thought about how far we have come as a nation in our poor eating habits, the wide range of quality available for the prices paid, and how important it is to buy anything fresh that is in abundance and at a low price.
Had I taken this challenge during a different week, I would have to make different choices based on what was on sale at that particular time. But I’m sure it still would have required the purchase of pasta, soup, and many of the pasty, carbohydrate-laden foods that were part of this week’s meals. Even the frozen mixed veggies contained corn, carrots, peas, and lima beans—all starchy varieties—but filling, even in light of their nutritional value.
The lack of affordable, fresh foods is one of the reasons why people who are food insecure are frequently overweight and face potential health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The cost of fresh foods prohibits buying more than a few such items per week. On the other hand, the highly-processed food products, with their lack of nutritional value, are cheap and readily available in large supply. I normally love pasta, but after consuming so much of it this week, I was beginning to feel a case of pasta bloat.
I thought about my cat and how I’d have to change my habits in order to make sure that he had enough healthy food because I could never bear to part with him. I also like to feed the many birds that come to my yard and would have to find a way to share a little with them, too. I know that many people face this situation and my heart breaks for those who must give up beloved pets simply because they couldn’t afford to feed them any longer.
Posted by Kathy Moran, longtime volunteer and supporter of Connecticut Food Bank