By Hrant J., Executive Director
February 8, 2013
A few weeks ago, I was asked to participate in the SNAP Challenge (details from the original post can be found here), with approximately 600 residents from my county. That meant spending no more than $5 a day on food this week, which is a little more than the amount provided to individuals on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously referred to as food stamps. Since this is a good cause and I have previous experience working extensively on food insecurity issues, I jumped at the opportunity to join my friends and neighbors in the SNAP Challenge.
That said this week had added meaning for me, as I know how important good nutrition is to our members especially those that are dialysis patients. According to our recent membership survey only about half of our members get the nutrition they need. As a result, I tried to make sure my food was as healthful as possible, although not exactly a renal friendly diet. My typical day consisted of:
- Instant grits for breakfast
- A meal replacement shake for lunch
- Carrots, celery and bananas throughout the day for snacks
- Pasta for dinner
So, how did I do? That depends – I lost 4 pounds in 5 days. I just couldn’t get the calories I needed to maintain my weight. While I stayed under budget each day, I must admit one day I did replace my regular breakfast with a $0.69 doughnut that had no nutritional value and twice the calories. To me it just brought home how much more expensive healthier options can be, along with how difficult it is with such limited resources.
I am grateful that so many others also participated in the SNAP Challenge, helping to elevate public awareness on the issue of food insecurity. At the same time, it is hard to ignore the fact that many of the families with access to the SNAP program also face significant challenges with securing affordable housing, covering the cost of transportation, paying for day care, not to mention the monthly utility bill for heat during this extremely cold winter. As a result, I am hopeful that many walked away from the Challenge with a little better understanding of why our public safety net is so important, and how much even just a little bit helps to improve the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors.
Let me know how you did or feel free to reach out in the comments section to find out how you can start a SNAP challenge in your neighborhood.