This morning, I started the SNAP Challenge. I am to to eat three healthy meals every day for an entire week on only $5 a day as an attempt to understand the challenges faced by people who are forced to live on SNAP benefits, “food stamps.”
When I first agreed to be a part of this challenge, I thought it would be great because I am constantly looking for ways to lose weight. This will be just another diet, another attempt to change my body, something I spend a great deal of monetary, emotional, and physical energy doing. But the purpose behind the challenge became more real as I poured cans into a vegetable soup I was making this morning. Every can I opened got heavier and heavier as the dollars added up, and I realized that just making my normal pot of soup was adding up to almost ten dollars. The reality of how far this soup will have to stretch this week really hit home.
Then I sat down to write this article and realized I was drinking coffee, and even a small can for the week would take away $4 from my weekly grocery budget, and if I was trying to feed children, that would be food out of their mouths.
Apparently, I am not hungry.
I eat for entertainment or to fill a depressive void in my life. I buy diet food which is more expensive and eat out because I don’t have time to cook. I have already realized this morning that living on $5 a day means that food can easily become the thing you focus all your attention on, not because you are worried that you need to lose weight to fit into a new pair of jeans, or where you should go to meet your friends for lunch, but because being able to eat enough to not be hungry all day, and more importantly, not let your children be hungry, takes up most of your resources, and there is no guarantee that there will be enough food for tomorrow. It must be hard to focus on work or accomplishing anything when you don’t know how you will feed your children that night.
The church I pastor is participating in the 200,000 Reasons intuitive which is sponsored by the United Methodist Churches of Arkansas. We adopted five families from the local school district and deliver a box of groceries to each of them every Friday afternoon in an attempt to help them make it through the weekend when their children do not have access to school lunches and the danger of going hungry increases significantly. It may seem small, but it is a start.
My soup is going to have to provide many meals this week, and I am suddenly very aware of the immediacy of my hunger, of how easy it will be to run out of food before my week ends. This is just a week for me, and I know I don’t really have to be hungry. I can break my challenge and go out to eat or buy more groceries if it gets too bad. I will pray tonight for the moms and dads who don’t have that option, and for the children who are caught in a cycle of poverty and will go to bed hungry tonight. And then, after I pray for them, I will take the money I save from not eating out this week and buy groceries for the families our church takes boxes to. Maybe something extra, like fresh fruit, which will still be less expensive than the diet drinks I normally buy.
No, I’m no hungry, but the children are, and I probably do know plenty of truly hungry people.
One of every 4 kids in Arkansas struggles with hunger. That’s close to 200,000 children living in every county in our state. They could be someone you know – your friend, teammate, someone who sits next to you in class.
The 200,000 Reasons initiative is a three-year effort by the United Methodists of Arkansas to reduce childhood hunger in Arkansas. With 660 United Methodist churches in Arkansas, we can make a difference by working together with other churches, hunger agencies, local food pantries and feeding programs, community gardens and gleaning projects. http://200kreasons.arumc.org/ 200,000 Reasons on Facebook