In case you haven’t noticed, the poverty rate in this country is ridiculous, especially the child poverty rate. See this film. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefits in my own state, New York, are being cut, as are public funds for emergency food providers like food pantries. I imagine the same is happening around the country. These cuts will deeply affect the over fifty million people who are already food insecure.
I’ve lived in a low income bracket, but I’ve never been food insecure (I would make a joke about my waistline right now, but given the ties between poverty and obesity, that would be ill-informed and in poor taste). At this point in my life, I’m pretty cavalier about food. I seldom plan in advance or think about where my food is coming from, because chances are, I’m just going to run out and have a professional cook something for me, or maybe pop open a heat-and-eat meal. Good planning constitutes of having a rare evening when I go to the grocery store and wander around until something I want to cook strikes me. Cooking is a luxury I indulge in when I have time, not a necessity to stretch my means.
That’s pretty far from the reality of a good share of the world’s population. And as much as I THINK I do to advocate for justice, meet needs, and treat people well, the fact is that I am distant from the realities of hungry and impoverished people, because I can – and do – choose to distance myself from those realities.
So, for Lent, I am taking the Food Stamp Challenge, and living on the average SNAP benefit for a single person, which is $147.75 a month. Because I’m a wimp, I’m giving myself a bit of flex on Sundays and allowing a meal out, outside of the allotted budget. According to my math, that gives me $4.93/day, $197.20 for the whole of Lent. I’m figuring out details along the way, like what to do about food that is presented to me for free (dinner invitations, church meals, etc.). I’m trying to calculate what I normally spend on food so I can donate the difference to the local food pantry; that number could be scary. And I am determined to blog about the experience, so stay tuned.
I’m also inviting people to join me. Do you have interest in experiencing a bit of what so many people live every day? Will you join the food stamp challenge for a day, a week, or all of Lent? Drop me a comment below and let me know!