Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The SNAP challenge: one week on a food stamp budget

The SNAP Food Challenge

from the Upper West Food Justice blog:

Day one

Does my daily morning coffee I had at my usual place count? Two dollars gone already?
Choices: do I limit myself to five dollars a day or try to economize by buying supplies? This of course is complicated by the fact that Food City, where all the middle class people, especially the elderly, closed after all these years because of astronomical rent increases. Even our City Council member Gale Brewer couldn't save it. Whole Foods is out of the question. And the further complication is like so many others on Food Stamps, I am currently without cooking facilities. So I go to my local corner grocer, Mani. And buy five yogurts, a bottle of orange juice and bananas. That will be breakfast. Eleven dollars.

And if someone offers to buy me a beer, then what?

Day two

Okay. A dollar at the coffee stand across the street. Every time I go into a bodega or CVS and consider a candy bar or snack, I have to say no. I realize, as I have during fasts, how many times I buy a food item on impulse. Mindless consumption. That is a luxury.  At least this forces a mindfulness about choices around eating.

Day three

Walk into a Starbucks. Think. That Salted Caramel Frappucino, that grande Pumpkin Spice Latte, either one would more than wipe out a day's budget. I turn and walk away.

Day four

Broke down. Bought a Reese’s peanut butter cup.

Day five

Glad this is finally over.  At the end of the day, I ordered a wonderful large salad with chicken.  And that broke my budget for the week by a dollar. One what I consider normal dinner over a five day work week. And this is the budget before the food cliff cut backs.

Reminded me of times that I fasted for religious reasons. During the Vietnam War. On Yom Kippur in solidarity with friends and later family. Almost easier to fast than trying to manage on $5 a day. As I mentioned before, the most important experience is always the realization and awareness of the unconscious consumption we participate in every day. A mindfulness of choices regarding what we consume is a good thing to experience. (In the end, that’s one of the main values of Halal, Kosher, other religious food laws, mindfulness.)

And yes there is the artificiality of the fact that this was a voluntary experience, I chose this. For many in my congregation, there is no choice. With food stamps, your choices are seriously limited. And there is of course, in addition to nutrition, just plain boredom.

The fact is,it can’t be done. Not without supplemental supplies from food pantries. Free food wherever it can be found. Meals bought by friends.

We chose food justice for our congregations to share in as an experience because you can enter it at so many levels, production, distribution, consumption.

We began with a chosen experience of consumption limited by public policy.
I’m looking forward to sharing in theological reflection on this experience.

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