I’ve been involved with raising awareness for hunger for the past many years in the Hartford area. On visiting the mobile Food Share site in Glastonbury, I came face to face with the impact of hunger, in an affluent town. It was then that I decided to participate and experience what life is like for Americans living on the average SNAP benefit of $4 a day. As we know, the rising cost of food, the struggling economy, has made this the only source of food for millions of people.
We recently saw the in depth report about poverty in the United States. 46 million Americans live in poverty. This is the highest level in the past 50 years. 15.1% of people in this country live in poverty. We are told over and over again that the economic indices of improvement do not show any significant change for the better in the near future. The unemployment rate is 9.1%. Times are tough, times are very difficult. Going hand in hand with poverty is hunger, mental illness and violence. Once again-harsh reality. In these challenging times, I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s saying “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
I participated in the SNAP challenge for a week. I lived on $4 a day budget for food. It had been extremely challenging. I know and felt hunger first hand, and I also know that I was not eating right.
The program required:
Planning- I was looking for sales and only brought what was on sale. I also brought only the necessary amount.
Discipline- There was no buying on spur of the moment. There was no reaching out for items at the checkout counter.
Repetition- My meals were repetitive. I was filling my plate with carbohydrates; because it served two purposes- It was affordable and filling. Pasta, rice and bread became my staple diet.
Time involvement- All meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, were home cooked. I brought my tea and coffee from home and heated it up at the office.
Personal limitations- I could not afford to eat out, and declined all social invitations, finding a reasonable excuse. The business meetings, I made sure I did not eat or drink anything. I have dietary restrictions, and that made it even more challenging.
My impression is this is doable, but I am not sure if it is sustainable over long periods of time. I also am concerned about the long term consequences of not eating a proper, balanced diet.