This has been an eye opening challenge for sure. Not really to the experience of living on less, because I have done that before, but on trying to make healthier choices while doing it. I think more than anything it has opened my eyes to how many people that read my blog and that I know struggle with food insecurity every day. It is a real problem, that I think a lot of people can dismiss as "someone else's problem" but it isn't. And I hope that by talking about it, I helped open your eyes to it if its not a situation you have ever found yourself in.
First I am want to share my experience with food insecurity in the past, then some incredible stories from people who shared on my Facebook page. Its really easy to ignore the problem when it doesn't identify with anyone you care about, and reading these stories is very eyeopening.
When I was a kid, we were on SNAP. I was about 6, I think, when my mom sent my sister and I down to the 7/11 on the corner to get food. I remember getting a hot chocolate, and that our food stamps wouldn't pay for it (because apparently you can't buy prepared food with SNAP, something I didn't know at that age) and I remember having to throw it away. I knew what food stamps were, we lived in a low socioeconomic area, but until that time I didn't know we were on them. I remember when we were at my mom's, my sister and I would share a ramen for dinner, or we would share a pot pie. We were also on free lunch and free breakfast at school, which helped because I am sure we weren't getting adequate nutrition from half a packet of ramen for dinner.
Fast forward about 15 years and I experienced food insecurity again. My husband and I were just dating, but we thought we were ready to live in the real world. He was a server at Olive Garden and I was going to school full time, doing a work study for student aid. We were living off credit cards to get by, and we ate a lot of restaurant leftovers. We had a very small budget for food, about $20 a week, and we would go on, what we called, the spaghetti and hot dog diet. We could get a few boxes of spaghetti, sauce, and those cheap hot dogs to get us through the week. It wasn't healthy, but it was something. When we started to get back on our feet, I we had a different respect for people who struggled to eat. We were those people. And any time we could we would donate to the food bank, especially around holidays.
When I opened up my Facebook page to hear other people's stories, I was so touched. A lot of people are going through this struggle right now. I am incredibly lucky to have a different situation right now, but not all people do. Here are their responses. I recommend reading through all of them. Each of their experiences help paint the picture that is food insecurity in our community.
Click through to read the comments:
This challenge has reaffirmed my passion for this cause. There are a few things you can do to help if you feel driven to. Donate to your local food bank. Do it often. Quarterly we go through our pantry and donate anything that is unopened and not expired. Boxed pasta, spaghetti sauce, oatmeal (that we bought without realizing we had some), all canned goods. These things can make a big difference for someone else, when it is just collecting dust in your pantry.
Around the holidays, the food bank is always at my local Walmart or grocery store collecting food for the holidays. Grab a flyer and buy something. What will cost you $3-$5, will make a families' day. My husband's company buys a turkey for every family that works there for Thanksgiving, so we always pay that forward by buying a Turkey (or 2) for the food bank.
If you want to give your time, the food bank is always looking for volunteers. There are so many ways you can reach out in your local community- all you have to do is ask.
I was planning on doing a calorie and price run down of my meals, but 1. they were all in the budget, and 2. the food isn't what matters. What I wanted to do was raise awareness for this very real problem. I relate to people's stories. I can throw stats at you until the cows come home, but stories are what change you.
I am so glad I did this challenge, and it isn't the last you will hear from me about it. And if you want more information about how you can help, or about SNAP, go to feedingamerica.org.