A Week on the Hunger Challenge

Guest Post by Dawn LeBar:

Sunday, June 10th

Well, I truly did sign up for this, and now it’s Game On.  I went to the grocery store tonight to get ready for the week. Went to WinnCo, knowing it’s cheaper than my usual Nugget shop stop. When you only have $22 to spend it doesn’t go far no matter where you shop.  I bought a dozen eggs ($3.29), 2 loaves of store brand wheat bread (2 loaves for $5), box of store brand raisin bran type cereal ($3.29), package of thin sliced ham ($2.79), bag of apples ($2.00), and a gallon of milk ($3.89).

I am nervous already.  No pasta, no ice cream, no granola bars, no Skinny Cows, no cherries ($4.99!!!) and most certainly no meat.

It reminded me of when my mom would take us to the grocery store, the clerk would ring it all up, my mom would gasp at the total and proclaim, “..and we didn’t even buy meat!!”

Monday June 11th

Today was a pretty easy day. Had cereal for my breakfast, where I would usually have a granola bar (it’s much easier).  I boiled eggs last night and made egg salad, so I had a yummy egg salad sandwich for lunch. Dinner wasn’t so easy.  I thought about breakfast and lunch but didn’t really buy anything for dinner.  Cereal for dinner! Yummmm!

Here is my cheat:  I must confess, or I will feel like I am lying about this whole deal.  And I’m admitting it because it’s rather humbling and sort of proves a point:  Every morning (ok, most) I stop at Starbucks on my way to work and get a venti black coffee for the low, low cost of $2.25. I have a gold starbucks card, which I re-load every 2-3 weeks at $25 a pop.  I literally was in the drive-thru this morning when I realized this is not covered under the “Hunger Challenge”. And I could’ve escaped, but I didn’t.  My rationale is that I have a balance on my card, so I’m not actually spending any money. See?  So there is my cheat.  And also shows that I spend an average of $10 a week just on black coffee, and $2.25 a day! That is half my daily allotment!!

Tuesday June 12

Hard boiled egg for breakfast. Have I mentioned how much I don’t like to cook, and am on the go most of the time? How I eat on the run, eat what is convenient, eat what is already prepared.  What I eat that is healthy is fruits and vegetables, however they are ridiculously expensive when again, you only have $22 to work with.  Let’s start paying extra attention to the obesity rate for the working poor, shall we??

Ham sandwich for lunch and – wait for it, Cereal for dinner!

Wednesday June 13

Today I had a bit of a cheater as well, though it’s technically not my fault. But I DID forego my morning “free” Starbucks.  I had a work luncheon today, which afforded me a de-lish chicken and mandarin orange salad.  Tasted like Heaven.  I couldn’t  very well break out my ham sandwich in a baggie, now could i??

Here’s a bit of catharsis:  When I was a kid, my mom was a single parent – my brother and I would go to the grocery store with her, and when it came time for her to pay for the groceries, we knew what was coming – she was going to break out the sheet of stamps. (back then, they didn’t have EBT cards). My brother and I would slink down and pray no one saw us, because we were so embarrassed. How could I even begin to know how my mother felt? I feel ashamed for feeling that way.

One stigma I detest to this day is that people on public assistance are lazy and won’t get a job, and live off “the system”.  I can tell you, my mom worked HARD. Sometimes 2 jobs, to take care of my brother and I.  It’s what we call “the working poor”.  I give my mom credit for my strong work ethic, integrity and appreciation for all I have. I’ve worked for everything, and I made a point to teach my sons the same thing.    It is an offensive, derogatory stigma that I wish our society would erase.  The few  bad apples should not represent ALL.

Did I mention that I am eating an apple with almost every meal?

Thursday June 14

So glad this is almost over. I am jones’ing for an Its’it.  I went out with a friend this evening and let him buy me a beer. It tasted fantastic. I wonder if food tastes better when you’re not supposed to have it.

Back to my catharses:  I had a saying I’ve carried throughout my life about my mom’s cooking:  She could make boxed macaroni and cheese 365 ways.  Again, I feel a bit ashamed for saying this, oh, probably a million times.  I know it was because you could buy that box of macaroni and cheese for sometimes 3 for a dollar, 2 for a dollar, and it was cheap.  She would throw tuna in it, peas, leftover stuff from the fridge; she always tried to change it up.  Oh, and egg noodles and butter. If I ever see another plate of egg noodles again, it will be too soon.

Here’s a non-food flash back:  we would be out of money sometimes and run out of toilet paper. I got used to stashing some just for those times. I had a stash under the sink, in my room, in the closet with the towels, so I never had to go without.  Simple things we take for granted – but to this day, I still have a “thing” about making sure I have an abundance of toilet paper in the house.

I think it’s important that I write this down – because these are memories I had from being a child.  Memories that have in some way, shaped me into who I am today.  Memories of stashing toilet paper, hiding food in my closet, (afraid I wasn’t going to have enough to eat), feeling embarrassed at the grocery store because my mom whipped out food stamps. I know my mom is reaching down from the Heavens right now wanting to smack me.. “Dawn Michelle!”

I cannot emphasize enough how much we as a society need to remember that someone – in some way, somehow, we need to take care of our children. It is our moral and humane obligation. It is our spiritual obligation.  Children cannot take care of themselves.  It is our duty – have we lost our human compassion?? (Ok, off the soapbox now)

Friday June 15, 2012

My last day of cereal and egg salad! Woo hoo!  I’m so glad this is over.  It has been much more difficult than I thought.   I want to celebrate tomorrow by having a fat cheese burger and ice cream.  The problem is that those who really are on CalFresh aren’t able to do that, so why should I? Seems a slap in their face, frankly.

My goal – continue to work on bringing attention to food deserts; volunteer my spare time to the Leaven, who works wonders with low income children and in providing them healthy food choices; be more conscientious about how I spend my money on groceries – lessen the impulse buying; support the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano more, as they are such a fantastic organization – so much more than a “Food bank”!!!

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