by Iliana Eber, NFTY-MV SAVP
Think of everything you do. Run through any given day and consider it all. School. Sports. Choir. Theater. Debate. French Club. Dance. All of these require energy and attention. Now imagine trying to do all your activities with less breakfast, less lunch, less dinner, and fewer snacks, if any. Running a cross country meet would be a lot harder. Focusing on a test wouldn’t be so easy. Day to day tasks suddenly become taxing and often limited, and all because one essential thing- food. Living on $4.10 a day is arduous, yet that is all recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) receive to put food on the table. For one person, $4.10 a day seems hardly enough to live off of, none-the-less commit to an active and healthy lifestyle. To think that almost 47 million Americans are a part of SNAP is astounding.
Those numbers may not seem so impactful at first glance, but think about how your own life would change if all the sudden you were the one who only had $28.70 for food a week and not one cent more more. Personally, I couldn’t really visualize what this would mean for me; it was difficult to even think of myself in that position. Although it is impossible to fully understand what it is like to depend on and be a part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, I wanted to try. The SNAP Challenge provides a chance for NFTYites like myself, along with thousands of others, to have a glimpse into the lives of SNAP recipients. This week, I am taking the challenge to snap the silence about hunger. Hunger is real, and hunger is a big problem. Whether you realize it or not, you probably know friends or classmates who get their food through SNAP benefits. I could throw statistics out all day long, but when it comes down to it, none of it means anything until you have the chance to actually walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
Today marked the beginning of my week long challenge. This is my second year doing the SNAP Challenge, so my expectations are a little bit different, but already I can see I underestimated the struggle of going a week on $28.70 for food. I went shopping last night at the King Soopers near my house, and I expected to be in and out in no more than 30 minutes. I had a pretty good idea of what I bought last year, and I had loads of homework, so I didn’t plan to spend a lot of time shopping for such a small amount of food. At 3:30, I walked into the grocery store. Even the second time around, my experience at the grocery store was shocking. Everything was so expensive, and I was consistently shocked by how many of my normal foods would have to go. There would be no more berries, no more nuts, and definitely no more almond butter. As I paced up and down through the aisles, I started to understand just how much of the store was off limits to me. Nothing was preventing me from buying any one thing, but considering the prices, nutritional value was undoubtedly compromised.
At 4:57, I walked out of the store. Without even realizing it, I had spent over an hour seeking out the cheapest and healthiest foods, comparing prices, seeing how much I could get for my money, and trying to find a balance between everything. I ended up with oatmeal and cheerios for breakfast, bread and peanut butter for lunch, and macaroni and cheese for dinner. Each day I will have to choose between an apple and greek yogurt for a single snack, and dessert is out of the question. It was much more time consuming to try and find healthy foods, but I knew I wouldn’t make it through the week if all I had is a pile of ramen and candy bars. Unfortunately, most people aren’t able to spend this much time shopping for one week’s worth of food, and the result is a much less nutritious diet. I’m curious to see how the rest of this week goes. While it certainly won’t be easy, millions of Americans don’t have the choice. One week may seem hard to me, yet 52 weeks is normal for them, and that’s hard to swallow. SNAP already received major budget cuts a few years ago, and we can’t afford to further reduce the money and resources allocated to this program.
To join me in taking the challenge to SNAP the silence about hunger, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are unable to take the challenge, think about donating your time to a local food bank and spreading the word about what others can do. I’m excited to contribute to the conversation about hunger in America through SNAP, and best of luck to everyone else taking the challenge!