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The Hunger Challenge Continues…

September 24, 2010

This week is Hunger Action Week. To educate the public about the issue of hunger in communities, two organizations, Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and United Way Silicon Valley, issued a challenge for people to try to eat on $4.50 a day, the average amount that those on Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as “food stamps”) receive. I decided to take the challenge and blog about it. See the previous entries to find out how I prepared for the challenge, and how I fared each day.

I won’t lie, I’m relieved the “Eat on $4.50 a Day” Challenge is over for me. Officially the challenge ends on Saturday, when Hunger Action Week concludes. But I had a commitment today that precluded being able to actually eat on $4.50 for the entire day, so I chose to only take it for four days. And I am glad, because I was hungry most of the time all four days.

But while I get to end the challenge and my self-imposed budget diet, thousands of my neighbors in this area don’t get to end it right now, because for them the challenge is a day-to-day reality. I’m glad I took the challenge. It made me think about hunger and what people on SNAP must go through. It made me appreciate my food better. It made me look at my pantry and fridge in new ways. My household of three has a lot of food around that we take for granted.

Here are a few of my conclusions:

  • We don’t think about hunger enough in this country. It somehow exists in the shadows for many of us who are not hungry on a regular basis. We’re aware it’s going on, but we don’t see it (don’t want to see it?). We watch food programs on TV almost endlessly, but millions of our fellow citizens are without enough food to be healthy and happy.
  • Related to the above, every elected politician at every level should be required to take this challenge at least once.
  • $4.50 is not enough money to feed a person every day. If you expect people to live on oatmeal and rice and beans, sure it’s fine. But it’s not enough to get in all the calories and nutrients needed to be healthy long-term. It’s extremely important people can afford good, quality produce on a regular basis. This amount doesn’t always allow for that.
  • For the long-term health of our country, we need to figure out (fast) how to feed children in this country. We’re collectively doing a really bad job. Too many kids live in households where food insecurity is a severe issue. Being food insecure can actually lead to high obesity rates. Not only will people eat the wrong things (like cheap fast food), when they have food they will overeat because they may not get anything to eat for an unknown period of time in the near future. It sets into motion a cycle that is tough to break. If we can’t raise healthy kids, we endanger our future.

There’s so much more to this issue, and thankfully there are people like Second Harvest Food Bank and others who think about this every day and work hard to get the rest of us to think about it, too.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Pat Plant permalink
    September 24, 2010 8:13 pm

    I really appreciate the sacrifice you imposed on yourself and your conclusions. In a county/state/country as rich as ours, it hurts my heart that so many people (one quarter of Santa calra County) are food insecure and often go hungry. the SNAP program isnt meant to be all the food an individual or a family gets… but it helps extend the month when their money runs out. Clever. resourceful poor folks can also get food handouts (bag/s of food of various contents depending on the agency or hot lunches or dinners meals at one of some eight dining rooms in the county) at the various “safety net” agencies around the county.

    Another aspect of the SNAP program is that many more people could receive these benefits then actually have them because of the issues related to them (youhave to be fingerprinted, you have to fill out lots of paperwork many times and show up during business hours – tough if you are working.) California has the most diffiult regulations for people to contend with. Many people are advocating for change related to The SNAP program, and the difficulties are being helped by both the county welfare workers and Second Harvest Food Bank and others.

  2. September 27, 2010 3:42 pm

    Thanks for taking this challenge! Your blogs really demonstrate how difficult it is for people to feed themselves on so little money – and demonstrate some fundamental problems with the way we feed hungry people in our country. You demonstrate an important point: how difficult it is to eat HEALTHY food on a limited budget.

  3. December 6, 2010 10:38 pm

    It is wonderful to see such attention brought to the forefront of the web. Hunger is a daily struggle for many middle class people as well as those who are truly in need of someone else’s help. I hope we can all do something this season to help someone in need.

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