“It’s not possible to eat for $3.95 a day.”
That’s what a friend said to me as I was about to start my SNAP Challenge last week.
Of course it’s possible, I responded. It might not be food that we are accustomed to eating and, as I discovered, it might not even be good food, but it is absolutely possible to feed oneself for that amount of money.
“No, it’s not,” my friend insisted. “I know what I pay for groceries for my family and it is much more than that.”
Yes, I said, but living on food stamps means changing behaviors. The flagship grocery stores are out and dollar stores are in. Brand loyalty is replaced with generic substitutions. Nothing organic is going in your grocery cart, let alone into your body, and, with a few exceptions, you can say good-bye to fresh fruits and vegetables. One-stop shopping is a thing of the past if you are really going to stretch your food dollars.
My friend was incredulous. She told me that she had never had to think about the price of food. Now I was incredulous.
Surely, I questioned her, there had to have been some point when she picked an item off the shelf at a grocery store, looked at the price and put it back. “Never” was her response. “I’ve never had to think about what I was spending on groceries.”
Well, what about in college, I insisted. There must have been a time when you had to live on a food budget. “I lived in a dorm and gained weight there was always so much food to eat.”
My friend convinced me. Never in her 50 years of living had she ever gone hungry, had to depend on food stamps, visit a food shelf or even had to think about how much money she was spending on food. When I told her that never once having to worry about food or its cost would put her in an infinitesimally small minority of people who had ever lived – in the history of the world – she said, “I’ve never thought about this before.”
That’s what this SNAP Challenge is about. It’s about getting us to think about hunger and nutrition and poverty and privilege; and then converting those thoughts into actions that will result in more people eating food that is better for them. It’s just like turning calories into energy. But it’s easier to do on a full stomach.