SNAP Challenge: Can You Live On $30/Week?

Living 14 days on the average amount given to an individual with SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits

Independence Card

Up until now I thought I understood hunger. Understood what it means to be without the kinds of food I find healthy and desirable, and what it may mean to live as many of my hungry and homeless neighbors do. Hunger and feeding people is something I think and talk about, every day. It fills my days, inspires my daily work, and keeps me moving forward. My personal belief that every human should have the choice to eat healthfully and have access to nutritious food, is always weighing on my heart. However, in planning for this challenge, I’m beginning to think that I may have been wrong about a few of things I thought that I knew about the personal side of daily hunger.

The idealistic government suggestion from decades ago, which is still the norm, is that Americans should budget 1/3 of their income for food. This is vastly under what it takes to put food on a table for those who live around the poverty level. Yet as I, a single woman, go to the local grocers and farmers markets, I know that I spend more on my own health and wellbeing than most families of five. I shop for organics, fill my basket with greens and fresh items, and pick out better cuts of proteins. In short, eating healthy in the world in which I live costs more than most people know.

Then I go to work. I talk and write about nutrition, and the need for more greens, better proteins, fats and calories for the homeless and those in danger of being homeless. And there seems to be a disconnect between what I say and believe, and the reality that “real” homeless people live day-to-day. Can I truly believe in the healthy changes we are making here at The Franciscan Center, without knowing first hand the hardships living on $30. a week can bring? Of course not. Thus the need for me to walk in their shoes, eat as they do (and don’t!), and feel the mental concerns about food that they feel every day and week.

This is a challenge in understanding what it takes to not only feed yourself in a healthful manner, but to do it with the same resources as our hungry and needy neighbors. So here are the rules that I’ve come up with for two weeks, starting the 7th of February:

Week One

  1. Spend only $30.00 per week on food and beverage
  2. Use any grocery or corner store desired as long as it is within 1.5 miles of home, or public transit may be used
  3. Cut coupons if needed
  4. The Franciscan Center’s meal program or grocery program (or other .org) may not be utilized
  5. Utilize best choices for balanced and nutrition

Week Two

  1. Spend only $30.00 per week on food and beverage
  2. Use any grocery or corner store desired as long as it is within 1.5 miles of home, or public transit may be used
  3. Cut coupons if needed
  4. Open to use The Franciscan Center’s meal program and/or utilize the grocery program
  5. Utilize best choices for balanced and nutrition

Already, as I plan for the upcoming weeks I see difficulties that I would think are present within the community I am trying to understand. Such as holiday’s and social engagements. Valentines Day is right in the middle of this challenge. Perhaps this is also a lesson in allowing for the simple moments in life to bring more meaning to our hearts. What about dinner with friends? I host dinner and am often invited over to friends homes. These and many other questions come to mind. I’m looking forward to seeing where my heart, and the conversation goes.

Want to join the challenge? Post your comments below, and get the conversation started. We will be posting our difficulties and successes in the coming days.

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