SNAP: Two Dimes & A Penny

SNAPChallenge_Layer-1I’ve stood behind folks arguing about twenty-one cents on their grocery order before. Adamant, they don’t back down while others wait behind them. Clerks are often not very helpful looking with disdain at the person who bickers over two dimes and a penny. I admit sometimes I have been impatient when standing behind this scene.

Today I empathize with the panic of those who argue over small change.

With three dollars and fifty-four cents left in my food budget for 2-1/2 days, I went to the market in my small town yesterday. I was thrilled to find that there was an abundance of bananas left and, since this was the end of the week, they were only thirty-three cents a pound. I would have fruit!

Then to my joy was a new rack of Braeburn apples sale priced at 79 cents a pound. I would have apples and bananas to supplement my beige noodles and rice at home. Yes, I would have fruit! I couldn’t afford any more vegetables and all I had left at home was a quarter of a zucchini but, by golly, I was going to have fruit.

My order totaled $2.50 but since I am new to this living so very close to the edge, I didn’t realize a mistake was made. I was charged for one Braeburn apple at the 79 cent a pound and one Fuji apple at $1.49 a pound. That thirty-seven cents overcharge matters to me this week. It will buy a baking potato if I can find a small one in the pile.

When you’re poor and living near the edge every penny counts. When you’re days away from pay day or a refill on your food stamp card, of course, you argue over two dimes and a penny.

The Lord proclaims: Do what is just and right; rescue the oppressed from the power of the oppressor. Don’t exploit or mistreat the refugee, the orphan, and the widow. Don’t spill the blood of the innocent in this place. Jeremiah 22:3 CEB

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SNAP: The Veggie-Noodle Balance 11-21-13
SNAP: The Glop That Plops 11-22-13
SNAP: Ouch, Ouch, Ouch 11-23-13

SNAP: The Glop That Plops

SNAP: The Glop That Plops

I came home last night a little after eight. I was ravenous. I’d intentionally skipped dinner, planning to eat after my 6:30 meeting.

SNAPChallenge_Layer-1

I looked at the ninety-three cent box of macaroni and cheese. It was going to take too long. (I was ravenous, remember.) The instant rice is running low and besides I’d had rice at lunch. I looked at my remaining baby carrots but turned away from them. I’m rationing what fresh vegetables I have. I ended up with a cup of leftover tomato soup poured over a slice of bread. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great. 

It wasn’t enough.

Wanting more soup, I went back to the fridge and found the leftover condensed mushroom soup. It kinda just plopped into the pot. I warmed it up. It kinda plopped into my bowl. I ate it. It kinda plopped into my stomach.

I was full now but felt like, well, I felt like crap.

***

Reflecting this morning on my mistake — eating that condensed mushroom soup — I am thinking about my mindset at the time. I was hungry. My belly was empty. Without healthy choices available to me, I ate what was available.

I think about how these kind of food choices effect children’s learning and adult performance on the job. Yes, many folks on SNAP are the working poor. I know how I feel this week. I know it is effecting my focus and efficiency.

I am not hungry this week. I have enough food to eat, at least so far. But it is not enough to assure folks have enough to eat. Adults and children alike need to have healthy, nutritious food to learn, grow, and strive. 

***

Related Articles
Opening Our Hearts to the Hungry, Condon United Church of Christ website
SNAP Challenge, um, Maybe Not Today 11-19-13
SNAP: Getting Serious, Getting Anxious 11-20-13
SNAP: The Veggie-Noodle Balance 11-21-13

SNAP: The Noodle-Veggie Balance

SNAP: The Noodle-Veggie Balance

It was more of a noodle dish with some veggies than a veggie dish with some noodles. Still, I was proud of my creation last night. With a little spaghetti sauce, macaroni noodles, carrot pieces, and zucchini I created a tasty dish. True, the noodle-veggie balance was off. It was heavier on the sauce and noodles than it would have been were it not for the SNAP Challenge (eating on the equivalent of a food stamp budget) that I am taking this week.

A vegetarian, I am conscious of the food I eat. While I am tempted by junk food and have several sweet teeth, it is a rare day when I don’t eat more than the recommended daily allowance of  fresh vegetables and fruits. Cheeses, legumes, and the occasional tempeh and tofu are my protein sources.

And, though my meal was tasty last night, I begin day three of the SNAP Challenge (food stamps), I feel weighed down and sluggish. My digestive system does not seem nearly as efficient as is usual. The beige wonderland of noodles, rice, almost-fluffy white wheat bread, which is what I can afford on a daily budget of four dollars and fifty cents, fill my stomach. They also are negatively effecting my sense of general well-being. I’ve begun fantasizing about the veggie bake and fruit tray I will create at the end of this week.

But that’s the rub, isn’t it? I have a choice. This is a one-week experience for me and my body will recover. Next week when I make the same dish, it will be a healthier veggie dish with a few noodles. My overall health will not be damaged by a short detour away from healthy eating. My kindred, people who live in our wealthiest nation, live with poor nutrition because as a people we don’t have the will to deal with economic injustices that favor the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

The wealthy get tax cuts; the poor get food benefit cuts. We find funds to go to war while twenty-five percent of children live in poverty (1). Like the skewed noodle-veggie balance of my meal, we have chosen as a country to skew the wealthy-poor balance in favor of the wealthy.

God have mercy on us for our sins against our poor neighbors.

***

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Opening Our Hearts to the Hungry, Condon United Church of Christ website
SNAP Challenge, um, Maybe Not Today 11-19-13
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SNAP, um, Maybe Not Today

SNAP, um, Maybe Not Today

Read about my decision to take the SNAP Challenge here.

I was supposed to start the SNAP Challenge yesterday. I didn’t. I didn’t start it because it would be SNAPChallenge_Layer-1inconvenient. I didn’t want to go to the trouble of packing a lunch or waiting until I got back home to eat. I didn’t want to expend the energy on figuring out how I would cope for the day on a limited food budget.

I didn’t start it because I wanted to go to Burgerville with my wife. I wanted a Yukon White Bean burger and fries and they didn’t fit into the $1.50 a meal budget that is the average food stamp benefit.

This is the essence of what it is to hold privilege. I do not have to live on food stamps. I don’t worry whether I will have enough food until the next pay day. I can grab a veggie burger while on the run and I barely feel the expense. 

Already the nature of the SNAP Challenge has reminded me that my relationship with food is different than it is for those who live in poverty.