Did you know that September was Hunger Action Month? The goal of Hunger Action Month is to educate the public on food insecurity and create a movement that has a lasting impact on others to help end hunger in America.
This past week I decided to accept the SNAP Challenge. What does SNAP stand for you ask? Its The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program … aka food stamps. SNAP provides monthly benefits to supplement the food budgets of families in need, but in many cases families are still struggling to put food on the table, even with these benefits. Many Americans benefit from the program; as of August 8th 2014 the average monthly participants in SNAP were 46.5 million people.
The SNAP challenge encourages its participants to gain a sense of what it is like for millions of Americans that live on a low-income budget that face hunger each day. This past week I chose to commit to two days of eating my meals from a limited food budget comparable to a SNAP participant that would live on $1.50 a meal. During the challenge I could only spend $4.50 per day on all of my food and beverages and I couldn’t use previously- bought food.
This task was harder than I thought. The first day I chose to eat yogurt for breakfast, and drank a glass of water, which I normally do. But once lunchtime rolled around and all I had to eat was Ramen Noodles, it began to sink in. I was still hungry after that meal, and dinner was far away. After breakfast and lunch I had already spent $1.74. I wanted to eat a snack but they were almost more expensive than a dinner meal. For dinner I chose to eat a microwavable meal of cheesy rice and chicken. The total cost of my meal that day was $2.93. By the end of that day I realized I could spend more, but by the time I pay for a product plus tax I would be over budget.
That next morning I woke up pretty hungry. I woke up and had my everyday yogurt for breakfast and went on with my day. By 11 a.m. I was ready for a big home cooked lunch but had to stick to the challenge by eating a bowl of the discounted chicken noodle soup, which I could have ate 10 more cans of! By this time I was getting grumpy because I was hungry and just annoying the person sitting next to me in class because my stomach was grumbling. I was realizing the struggle that many have to go through on daily basis. It was so distracting because all I could think about was my hunger. Finally dinner rolled around, and I was able to have a little bit of meat in my system. I had a microwavable chicken potpie and a glass of water, finishing the day with only spending $3.37.
After doing this challenge, it was a wake up call. The meals I was eating were neither nutritious nor fresh. It was hard to imagine that many of all ages have to eat this way constantly and some may run out of food before they can receive more for the next month. I also couldn’t imagine the stress of living this way; not only does a person have to worry about managing their money on food but also other expenses life throws their way like rent, medical issues, car payment, gas, etc.
I decided I wanted to do a little research into food insecurity in my area. I realized that there are many misinterpretations of hunger. When I think of hunger, I think of the sad commercials that are shown on TV of the starving children playing in a dirty environment. But I was wrong! Hunger happens to families that are just like mine! I found that 70% of SNAP participants consist of families with children or ones with disabilities or have an elder person living in the household. Not only that, but many people that use the program have jobs and are making an income.
Next, I wanted to look into what is happening in my area to help with this big issue! I found that there are shelters and facilities in West Lafayette that help with these issues like Lafayette Transitional Housing. I also found that the Indianapolis Colts are partnered with Indiana farmers through Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council doing a project called “Tackling Hunger.” For every tackle that Cory Redding and the Colts defense makes this season, the Colts and Indiana farmers make a donation to Kids Against Hunger of Central Indiana. How cool is that?!
So what is happening in your area to end hunger?