I participated in the SNAP Challenge, which encourages individuals to live on the amount of money that is provided to those on food stamps—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It’s done in an effort to raise awareness around the more than 50 million Americans facing hunger and food insecurity each day. (Learn more about SNAP here.)
I accepted the challenge and prepared to frugally spend my $4.56 per day. My typical day begins at 5 a.m, with a five-mile run then a nine to 10-hour day of work, typically followed by some type of social activity after work.
Shopping on a tight budget was difficult, and I didn’t plan very well. I generally eat three meals and two snacks per day, each consisting of protein, fresh fruits and vegetables. As I shopped, I realized I would have to fill up on carbs in order to not be hungry.
On the first evening, I had drinks with friends. As I sipped my water and watched them sip their drinks and eat appetizers, I realized that I spend more on a happy hour than a family on food stamps spends on a week’s worth of food. I also realized that good meals bring me pleasure and joy and often are a time of connecting socially.
By day two, my energy was very low and I was famished for hours at a time. I had difficulty concentrating at work and I was beginning to worry that I had not rationed my food appropriately for the next days. Due to significant exhaustion, I went to bed several hours earlier than usual and had to slip out of a business event early as I was light-headed from hunger. I eat foods that are rich in Vitamin C, and I could quickly tell that I was on the brink of coming down with a cold. I had saved a little over $1 from my shopping budget in case of an extreme hunger situation.
The last day, I bought a tomato; that was my only fresh item that I had for days. On the last night of my participation in the SNAP Challenge, I had a sinking feeling when I realized that tomorrow I could have a yogurt, granola and fresh berries for breakfast, but that others who live this “challenge” daily have no reprieve.
This challenge was a catalyst for conversations with friends and co-workers about Coloradans living in hunger.
What would you eat with only $4.56 per day? Try the SNAP Challenge, and then share your experience with Hunger Free Colorado and others. Tell us your thoughts here, tweet about it with the hashtag #SNAPChallenge or comment on our Facebook page.
Guest blog by Kelly McCourt, vice president of marketing for Sage Hospitality in Denver, Colo. Hunger Free Colorado posed the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge to Leadership Denver in November.
Learn more about initiatives to end hunger in Colorado at HungerFreeColorado.org.