Guest post by the Monument Crisis Center Staff: With more than 10,000 households registered for service, the staff members of the Monument Crisis Center are more familiar than most with the challenges and problems facing families and individuals without enough food. When we signed up for the Hunger Challenge, we anticipated feeling tired, hungry and irritated. But outside of our growling stomachs we came across a series of other challenges and realizations that can only come about by experiencing an extremely limited food budget firsthand.
Food is more than a way to fuel our bodies. Eating is often a social affair, a time to bond with our friends and family. Restricting our meal budgets to only $22.30 for five days has meant turning down engagements for dinner dates, going to a family potluck with only miniscule contributions, and skipping out on happy hour with coworkers. While these sacrifices are trivial to those of us participating in the Hunger Challenge for less than a week, individuals and families living on limited food budgets on a regular basis may face isolation, lost opportunities for networking, and depression due to these affects.
“Luxury of thought” sounds like a pretty ridiculous concept. How can formulating a thought be a luxury when so many of us are capable of thinking freely? What we found out by participating in the Hunger Challenge was that a huge portion of our time was spent planning, anticipating and craving meals. We would wake up hungry, eat breakfast. Around 10am we would feel hungry again and think about lunch. After lunch our minds were set on planning dinner. Constant thoughts surrounding food distracted us from responsibilities at work, home, and even from recreational activities. Being faced with the challenge of feeding ourselves on a shoe string budget year round could easily change our ambitions, hopes, and thought processes.
The frightening part of this experience was that only one aspect of our lives had changed, while many people in poverty lack stability in multiple arenas such as housing, childcare, and healthcare. The way we ate affected our waistlines, relationship with society and ourselves. Even for individuals who work every day to fight poverty, participating in the Hunger Challenge was a valuable and educational experience.