As I sit here at my desk sipping plain hot water from a mug, I cannot help but feel the absence of a tea bag. My tea stash is calling out to me, telling me that the problem can be easily remedied, but, I must resist! Besides, I have found that the best way for me to deal with being hungry this week is to drink lots of water and spend extra time in the ladies room. I should get a magazine or a word puzzle of some kind.
I’m also quite lucky that my coworkers are so supportive of my Challenge. It isn’t like they are waving free food in my face, or taunting me with pastries. No, those things never happened.
So let’s talk about the details of this SNAP Challenge in comparison to reality. My food and beverage budget was $29.56 for the week and I am not allowed to accept food from other sources (other participants have chosen to do The Challenge differently, and that works just fine!). In the end, I’m hungry, and rationing my food out is getting harder and harder to do.
Some necessary background information or, a long-winded introduction, you be the judge: I am an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) that works here, in sunny Okanogan, WA. Being a VISTA means that I work with an non-profit to increase its capacity to manage volunteers and follow through with projects. We are kinda like the trainers’ trainer, if you get my jist. We develop programs and train volunteer leaders. It is super fun, by the way! I do love my job! Here’s the thing though, we are paid a stipend that matches the poverty level of our location, we are eligible for SNAP benefits, and WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO MAKE ANY ADDITIONAL INCOME. This means that we can’t have a second job or make stuff and sell it on Etsy! In short, being a VISTA is an experience in poverty, not just a job working to fight it.
In reality, I already receive SNAP benefits because being a VISTA makes me eligible, but I am also blessed because I work at a food bank and live with wonderful people who garden and are willing to share their bounty. My diet is supplemented by what the Okanogan Food Bank hands out twice a week and by gardening and generous people. Most of that expensive fresh produce comes to me free of charge which really helps me stretch my SNAP benefits each month. SNAPChallengeOkanogan is making me value these other sources of food tremendously. The question is, how do people get enough to eat in situations where there are no food banks nor avid gardeners, farmers, or orchardists? Without these other programs, it is very difficult, especially for children, who are less likely to succeed in school and in life when suffering from malnourishment. We’ve got to support programs that get food to hungry people, and teach them how to grow their own!
And on the fun side of things, I bet you didn’t know that SNAP benefits could be used to buy some of this stuff! How cool is Alaska? This neat diagram was copied from The Christian Science Monitor because I thought it was pretty.
How much free food do you normally get from different sources during your week?