Food Stamp Challenge: Day Five

Read about Food Bank staff experiences on the final day of the challenge below.

Joan Tomasini, Food Drive Coordinator. Now I know why children fall asleep in school! No, I didn’t fall asleep at work but when I had to go deliver some barrels to the Walnut Festival, I found I was weaker than normal just carrying 2 empty barrels up a little hill. Maybe a little light headed too. Well my cereal made it for 5 days, no more bananas, I can’t stand peanut butter, and I can hardly wait for the tuna sandwich for dinner tonight. This whole experience does remind me of the man who stopped by the Food Bank about a year or so ago. He came in and said he had a jar of peanut butter but nothing to put it on. No bread no nothing. How happy I am that I have bread – in fact I would rather have bread than peanut butter. He was so happy when a staff member took care of him with several loaves of bread. Here was a man in his fifties, who lost his job and was just mowing lawns to keep his truck and a roof over his head. I will always remember how happy he was to receive the bread. Something so simple and something I always have in my freezer. I think we should all take this challenge several times a year to remind us of how fortunate we are.

Caitlin Sly; Farm 2 Kids Coordinator. Breakfast and lunch have been practically the same as they have been all week and I’m so glad this is the last day.  I cannot take any more of this instant coffee and puffy Honey Corn O’s.  I miss my espresso and Raisin Bran.  Last night was beans, rice, and tortillas again.  Tonight’s dinner will definitely be the most difficult as I am having pasta with tomato sauce and frozen peas for the third time this week.  Friday night is usually a time when I either cook at home or go out with friends, but not with this budget.

I find myself thinking about food quite often.  Not so much because I’m hungry, just that I am constantly planning and figuring out future meals.  It has been a bit stressful.  I can only imagine what it would be like if I had these same worries about all of my other bills, as I imagine most Food Stamp recipients do.  The constant stress about food, rent, clothes, gas, etc. would really take a toll rather quickly.

The phrase “I feel like some…” is not in my vocabulary.  No extras, no treats.  The closest I am going to get to a salty snack is tuna on toast.  It is frustrating to not be able to stop and have some nuts as a snack or some popcorn with a movie.  Or if I see an Odwalla juice at the gas station that looks particularly enticing, I cannot partake.  It is difficult not to be able to satisfy small cravings.

When I do have a craving (be it for vegetables or candy) I end up eating something else in its place that I have in my budget.  This has taken the pleasure out of eating.  This week, food has felt like a pure necessity, not something to be enjoyed or savored.  The enjoyment of food is definitely the main thing I miss.

Veronica Wimer, Purchasing Manager. So today is the last of the Food Stamp Challenge and here is my menu for today based on the food items that I have left. Today I get to splurge because I will be able to have two cups of decaf coffee (there were 6 individual servings in the box that I bought).

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
1 sm apple2 TBS PB

2 C instant coffee

4 oz milk

3 C Whole wheat pasta, 1 cooked carrot, 4oz  broccoli,2 oz cheddar chz Broccoli w/ cheeseTwo pieces of toast

1C Granola w/ 4 oz milk after dinner

PB sandwich

Veronica's favorite challenge dish. Lentils, w/ two eggs, cheddar cheese and 2 pieces of toast

To summarize my FSC experience I would say that it is definitely possible for one person to live off of $4/day, but is meal time going to be an enjoyable experience, probably not.  There was plenty of food to eat, in fact many of the food items that I bought will carry over into following weeks. What I did not have a budget for was the convenience foods and extras that we all take for granted. So, powerbars, organic cocoa to go with my organic fair trade Trader Joes coffee, unlimited tea supply, a variety of fresh vegetables and prepared meals for example were all out of the picture. I never went hungry, often times I didn’t even have an appetite knowing what my choices for food where. It’s tough going from choice and variety in food to very little but had I taken this experiment further say for a whole month I would have been able to take advantage of rolling over foods from previous weeks to add to my small pantry of food items. The key to success is planning ahead so that you can create a menu, as much as possible from whole unprocessed foods and again no convenience foods.

Don McCall, Grants Coordinator. Hunger only comes sporadically, just like when I’m on a diet. I figured out how much I have been spending last night, and since I went shopping on Tuesday night my daily consumption has been $4.20 (Bananas, tea, yogurt, turkey pot pie, broccoli, shredded wheat and carrots). Fortunately I spent (and ate) less on the first two days ($1.76 & $2.83), which means I am on track to have almost $3 left over (unless I get tempted to a diet coke and some corn nuts today).  The $20 for 5 days is completely doable, and with more time I could make it a little healthier. The problem is that when I am doing this, I know that when it is over (tomorrow in this case) I can eat any quantity and quality of food that I want to. This is what gets me through when I go on a diet – I know that the weekend is coming and I can have a diet-free meal or two if I want to. People that don’t have enough money for food do not have this escape clause, which is what makes it bearable.

Patty McDowell, Community Outreach Coordinator. Knowing this incredibly strict Food Stamp Challenge is only lasting for 5 days makes it much easier. Realizing I will, once again, have the “luxury” of unlimited access to food causes me mixed emotions — increased gratefulness for what many take for granted, heightened sadness for our neighbors who are not so fortunate, and a stronger drive to help fight hunger and bring greater benefits to those in need. As noted by some of my “co-challengers”, I have found myself bored with repetitive meals and have missed having choices, variety, and the flexibility of eating out. Being keenly interested in food, nutrition, cooking, trying new ingredients/recipes, and watching the Food Network, it surprised me to experience some disinterest in these hobbies after just 4 days. It is not enjoyable watching cooking shows with hunger pangs, plus I started feeling discouraged knowing I could not make a spontaneous grocery store trip to purchase ingredients to “try” to duplicate a meal or dessert. Exercising on Day Four was really challenging for me, and feeling tired at work on Day Four and Day Five was frustrating. Last but not least, that avocado I was “saving” (because I love and crave avocados so much) ended up being bruised which was oh-so-sad. While this may seem minor to many, I realized how this could impact an individual living on a low-income with only $4/day in Food Stamps. Before this challenge, I would have a few more avocados to choose from. This challenge is an eye-opener.

Have you ever struggled with hunger or experienced living on Food Stamps? Let us know how about your challenges with hunger in the comments section below.

Comments Closed