Independence Card

Live like you’re on Food Stamps:

Let me start off my saying that I do not work with a non-profit. I am a contractor who drifts from contract to contract. Even though I live in DC, the DC Metro area lives in a bubble and is sometimes unaware of what is going on elsewhere. However, we are now starting to experience a small fraction of what the rest of the country is experiencing. Jobs are not as abundant as before, and it would be easy to see how in the blink of an eye someone can go from paying their bills to not being able to afford food.

I did the SNAP Challenge to understand how someone in that position could get by, and it made me far more appreciative than anything I could have ever done.

I started this challenge on the first week energized and excited to try something different. Could I survive on $30/ week, and if so, how could I make it so that I was eating healthy? Someone had told me I could have $30 cheeseburgers (meaning from a dollar value meal at a fast food location somewhere), but I wanted to do something meaningful. For the first few days I would have leftover coffee that my neighbor had used the day before in my coffeepot. Then I would have a light yogurt and a couple of string cheeses for lunch, to be followed by dinner. My dinner consisted of 2 hard boiled eggs which I turned into egg salad and ate with 2 slices of bread, light mayo (that I had before the challenge) and lettuce.

Never has anything tasted so good before.

Within a couple of days I found myself staring at the clock wondering why it was only 8:30pm, and ready to go to bed. I also found myself struggling to get up in the mornings. I was exhausted, and it was hard for me to concentrate. My motivation was lacking at work, and my brain synapses felt like they were firing more slowly than ever. Especially in my job, where I work as a trainer, I was not as quickly responsive to questions, nor as jovial about answering questions that were asked in a non-enthusiastic tone. I became more impatient (and it continued to increase daily) which is highly unlike me as I am known for my patience.

I had finally realized what it felt like to go to bed hungry. And to wake hungry. And to live every minute of the day with an aching in my stomach that could only be cured by calories.

I realized how frivolous my lifestyle is – callously spending $4-5 at Starbucks, or going out to lunch or dinner with friends and spending $10-30 a meal! These were luxuries I couldn’t afford now.

The hardest thing that I realized about this challenge was that it wasn’t about living on $30 a week…

it was about living and eating healthily on $30 a week,

which is very difficult to do. My body was dragging (at a lighter weight…. 5 pounds were lost in one week on the ‘food stamps’ diet), and I had visions of carbohydrates dancing in my head. I can see how easy it would be to forgo fruits and vegetables for pasta and fats (which fill you up at a cheaper cost). I can see how that would cause someone to spiral into a depression. As for me, it caused me to become disenchanted with everyone and everything.

I am lucky. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see that after Sunday night I will have completed my 2 week challenge. But, what if this wasn’t a 2 week challenge?

What if this was my life? It would be extremely difficult for me to keep the momentum of healthy eating going, because I wouldn’t be seeing the end in sight. All I would see are the tightening of my purse strings.


Lianne is on twitter. You can follow her tweets at: Nomadic1009