Editor’s Note: Deb Heinrich, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s liaison to the state’s nonprofit community, agreed to take the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge this month and live on $4 a day for food for a week.
My family has decided to feed one more person at our table each day … Since we have four people in our family, we will feed an extra person by pledging one-quarter of our monthly food budget to our local food pantry.
I’ve reached the seventh and final day of my SNAP Challenge. It has been an incredible experience and I am very glad that I tried it. I started the Challenge with two goals in mind. First, I wanted to experience first-hand what it would be like to live on a budget of $4 per day for food for one week. A good friend of mine often quotes “Idealism is proportional to one’s distance from a problem.” Nothing helps you understand what someone goes through until you walk in their shoes, right? Second, I was hoping that the Challenge might bring the issue of food insecurity to the forefront of my thoughts for a while so that I could really dig into the issues in my mind.
Looking back over the week, I feel that I have achieved both of these objectives. At first, the planning process was what kept me thinking about food and budgets and nutrition. It was a challenge and I love a challenge. I’m also a planner at heart so that part came naturally, though I was surprised at how much time that planning took. The next thing to strike me was the social aspect of food and how limiting it is not to be able to share meals with others as we so often do to connect. Then the hunger started kicking in and I started to look deeper at how limited food would affect growing children and learning and concentrating. Of necessity, the week’s food variety was limited which in turn put limits on my nutritional intake. Toward the end of the week, this began to take a toll on me physically and brought to mind thoughts of balance.
I feel that, through this Challenge, my understanding and compassion for people who live with hunger in their lives has grown exponentially. I experienced moments of deep sadness, some anger and now resolve. My family’s food costs well exceed $4 per person per day and I would like to acknowledge that this Challenge has taught me that it is very difficult to maintain a balanced, nutritious diet on this budget. Therefore, my family has decided to feed one more person at our table each day. We will do so at an amount that allows for health and food choice. Since we have four people in our family, we will feed an extra person by pledging one-quarter of our monthly food budget to our local food pantry.
I also acknowledge that, though this will undoubtedly help, it will not address the societal problems that contribute to hunger. To that point, I will continue to work with Foodshare, Connecticut Food Bank, EndHungerConnecticut!, and others to effectuate policies in our state to lift people out of poverty and food insecurity and into self sustainability and security.
I also challenge others to try the SNAP Challenge. There really isn’t anything like experience to inform us. Many people have shared their thoughts and ideas about this Challenge with me. It has been a wonderful dialogue. Now, I challenge you. If you have a great idea, try it out. Take the Challenge and apply it. Don’t forget to share your experiences as you go along. We can all learn from you too. Thank you to everyone who walked through the Challenge with me. Your willingness to talk about hunger and what it means in Connecticut and the country have enriched us all.
As per my past journal entries, here is the nitty-gritty of the day. I will eat oatmeal with brown sugar for breakfast and then lentils and rice for lunch and dinner. Many of you have asked what I will be eating tomorrow, after the Challenge is over. I have actually been thinking about that quite a bit. I will start the morning with scrambled eggs with salt, pepper and parsley. For lunch, I am going to have a HUGE salad with dark greens, carrots, tomatoes, candied walnuts, radishes, sprouted lentils, apples, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. My dinner plan is not to plan. I spent a lot of time planning the ins and outs of my meals this past week. Tomorrow night, I will do dinner on the fly. I am deeply grateful that I have the ability to do so.