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 prepare to take part in DC Hunger Solutions’ Food Stamps Challenge, I have some apprehension about what lies ahead. With $30 to buy all my food and drinks for a week, I know that 1) I need to be really strategic about how I spend that money; 2) I am preparing myself to skip meals and feel hungry; and 3) I only have to do it for a week. Except for that last one, these are all things that families who rely on food stamps have to deal with – in addition to all the other challenges they face – day in, day out, week after week, month after month.
Why am I doing this? I have met so many women in our region who are struggling to get by, who rely on public benefits as they work two or sometimes three jobs, commute extraordinary distances, participate in job training programs – all to put a roof over their children’s heads and food on the table. They are resilient, strong, and 100 percent committed to making a better life for themselves and their families. And yes, food stamps enable them to just about get by, if you can call it that.
And so I thought it was important for me and other leaders in the community to get a glimpse – and believe me I know it’s only a glimpse – into the challenges so many in our region and our country face. By participating in the Food Stamp Challenge and eating only what I can buy with a food stamp budget for a week, I hope to shine a spotlight on the importance of programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the official name for the food stamp program), while at the same time highlighting how supports like these are not a panacea; in spite of this assistance, the barriers that so many women and families face in our region remain very high and very challenging.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Nicky Goren is president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation.