By Ed Nicholson
Yesterday was the final day of a week of living on a food budget of $25 a week (what food stamp recipients receive) as part of the United Way of Northwest Arkansas/ Northwest Arkansas Food Bank $25 Grocery Challenge. I posted my menu and food costs here, for anyone interested.
I wrapped up my seven days of the food stamp budget diet last night. A few parting thoughts:
In a real-world sense, it’s not particularly difficult to do this for a week. But that’s like running 100 yards and saying, "Running a marathon wouldn’t be so hard." Living it would take its toll.
I had distinct advantages that made it easier for me.
I had some basic cooking skills (and some good recipes) passed to me by parents who grew up in the Depression and always had a garden. My wife, Ginger, also a great cook, went along with me. We have a kitchen (an alarming number of low income families don’t).
I can shop. I know the store with the cheapest groceries in town, and I have the transportation to get there.
I really wanted to do this. I thought a lot about how to make it work. I knew it was going to end in a week. And I’m looking forward to a big dinner with a glass of wine tonight.
I mentioned the high price of good nutrition in an earlier post. Lisa Goddard from the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas posted an excellent article on their blog yesterday with an item-by-item shopping list comparison showing how people on a budget are constrained to less-healthful choices. It’s easy for us to be food elitists. While local, fresh and organic are nice ideals for those of us who can afford them, they’re simply not options–at least at this point–for people living with food insecurity. Consider this if you’re prone to pontificate on food choices.
I’m reminded by this experiment that I eat and drink too much. Too much sugar. Too much fat. Too many beers. I feel better after a week, and have lost three pounds. I’m thinking of repeating the experiment on occasion, just to recalibrate my consumption habits. But I have no doubt that after more than a week, it wouldn’t be long before I started seeing negative effects from the limited food choices available.
Food plays such an amazing role in our lives. It’s a big part of how we celebrate. How we grieve. How we court and bond. It’s at the heart of so many relationships, beginning with our sitting at the family table. If food were confined merely to the role of sustanence, our lives would be so less rich.
Still with me?. If so, I urge you to consider getting involved in the fight against hunger. In the richest country in the world, even in these uncertain economic times, there’s no excuse for anyone going hungry.