This week, several members of The Women’s Foundation staff are participating in the Food Stamp Challenge, an exercise organized by D.C. Hunger Solutions that educates the public and raises awareness of the benefits of food stamps and the challenges recipients face while eating on a very limited budget. The staff will be sharing their experiences on this blog.
As I head into day five of the food stamp challenge, I have quickly come to the conclusion that subsisting on $30 a week for all food and drink has had a big impact on my day-to-day life, and is really not sustainable given my active lifestyle and the need for me to be professionally at my best.
My biggest challenge the first two-and-a-half days was the lack of sufficient caffeine. My head was pounding, I felt physically ill, and all I wanted to do was sleep (I went to sleep at 9:30pm both of the first two nights). I felt unfocused and weak (in part due to the low caloric intake) and I had trouble reading. My family was shocked by my “crabbiness” as they put it, and if that was not enough, I was making mistakes in my work, and even left the roof of my car open all night. Luckily it did not rain.
By day three, it was clear that I had a mistake in not using some of my $30 to buy strong coffee – and I knew that I was not functioning. That’s when I caved, and have resumed my morning coffee with breakfast even though it’s not part of the plan. And I have to say I feel a lot better.
The coffee has not, however, curbed the frequent hunger pangs, and the fact that I feel like I’m thinking about food all the time. And I felt the change in my diet most acutely when I went to my regular workout at Crossfit on Saturday and could barely make it through the class due to the lightheadedness I was feeling. No question that the class is tough on a good day, and that I am always tired at the end, but I have never felt weak and light-headed like I did on Saturday.
Other than the coffee, I’m committed to staying on the food-stamps plan for a week. It’s a struggle to get by on such a small allocation for food and drink, luxuries – like coffee – are hard to justify, and it is hard to be at your best on such a regime, which makes it only harder to imagine overcoming all the other challenges so many of our citizens face.
I feel very fortunate that I have a choice and wish that everyone did.
Nicky is president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation.