|For breakfast, Kate has been eating plain oatmeal with water.|
This week, as part of Hunger Action Month, Greater Chicago Food Depository Executive Director and CEO Kate Maehr is taking the SNAP Challenge. She is eating on just $35 worth of food for seven days – the average weekly benefit for an individual using SNAP in Illinois.
I have one full day left in the SNAP Challenge, and while I’m glad there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s sobering to realize that for so many of our neighbors, there is no defined end to hunger. For many, the question of, “how will I get my next meal?” is a constant companion. I will wake up Sunday and the Challenge will be over. For the 1 in 6 food insecure individuals in our community, it will start all over again.
The final days of the Challenge are often the most difficult for me. I feel worn down – physically and mentally. I’m barely getting enough calories, and it’s fatiguing to be constantly figuring out how to stretch what little food I have left.
My meals will continue to be bland and minimal. My game plan is to eat oatmeal with water for breakfast (as I’ve done all week), peanut butter and jelly for lunch, and maybe a can of soup for dinner tonight and pasta with the tomato on Saturday.
Looking back on my Challenge week, I was especially struck by how convenience is no longer an option when living on a SNAP budget. It’s critical to schedule your time appropriately, or else you risk not eating. For example, I worked until 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. I was hoping to eat beans for dinner, but quickly realized I forgot to soak them in water before I left in the morning, so I had to wait for two hours while they soaked before I could eat. I couldn’t just pick something up to eat instead, because I couldn’t afford it. Essentially, you have to plan your life around your meals, constructing your day around when you eat, and what you eat. It is stressful.
As I wrap up the Challenge, I feel this week has been especially impactful considering the U.S. House’s vote to cut $40 billion from the SNAP program on Thursday. If made law, this proposal would cut an estimated 4-6 million individuals from the program. They’d be losing their first line of defense against hunger. This is a program that we must fight to protect. SNAP is a way for hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children in our community and across the country to get back on their feet and take control of their lives. It is a trampoline to a brighter future.
I encourage you to take the SNAP Challenge, and as Hunger Action Month continues, get involved in the fight against hunger in our community.