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.
Today is officially the last day of the Food Stamp Challenge, but for me this challenge unofficially ended over the weekend when I essentially ran out of food, and in general, felt really, really crappy.
As a colleague of mine wrote last week, this wasn’t so much of a challenge as it was a game, and we all looked for ways to interpret the rules of the game to allow us certain items that we knew in fact were forbidden. Whether it was a cup of coffee, a piece of candy from the office candy bowl, or that cold beer at a Nationals play-off game (yes, that was me!), each of us made choices about items that we added back into our diet. And we made those decisions because we could.
All in all, I was fortunate in that I never really felt hungry during the five days that I participated in the challenge; however, I just didn’t feel all that great. My system was out of whack, and I was growing weary of my daily lunch of lettuce and chickpeas. Some of my food was beginning to spoil, as I was trying to ration it to last the full seven days. By Saturday afternoon my lettuce and green beans weren’t looking all that great, and neither was I. After re-injuring my shoulder, I was taking an anti-inflammatory that was labeled “Do not eat on an empty stomach. Take with food.” My stomach wasn’t empty, but it certainly wasn’t full enough to handle the medicine, as I discovered several hours later… and so my challenge came to an end.
I learned a lot about myself over the five days that I participated in the challenge, and I had a bird’s eye glimpse into what it would be like to struggle with food insecurity. I actually changed the way in which I shopped for groceries for my family this weekend, and opted to make meals that would utilize any leftovers before buying new food. The four hamburger buns left over from my husband and daughter’s shopping last week turned into sloppy joe’s last night. Small steps, maybe, but I know that I will never take for granted a good, nutritious home-cooked meal again.
Jennifer is vice president of The Women’s Foundation.