When my Justice and Civil Society teacher announced to the class that we would be participating in something called the SNAP Challenge, where one has to live off $4 a day for food for a full week, I almost dropped the class.
But in the name of Spoon University, I accepted this food challenge, although I’d much rather challenge myself to shoving 40 donuts in my face. Reluctantly and fearfully, I completed the challenge, hangry but surprisingly very enlightened.
What is SNAP?
Confused about this program? Read up: The SNAP program is a federally-funded nutrition assistance program that aids low socioeconomic persons and families. The average amount of money given to a single person on SNAP is about $4 a day ($28/month) to spend solely on food. The allotted money can differ based on the person’s employment status, socioeconomic status, if he or she has children, etc.
The biggest issue with the allotted money for the SNAP program isn’t what one is prohibited from buying — it’s the kind and quality of food one has the ability to purchase. Say goodbye to fresh-pressed juices, vegetables, lean and not processed meats and satisfying meals. Say hello to highly processed, high in fat, mostly fried foods and a lot of carbs. I ate a strict diet of bagels, oatmeal, and Easy Mac, so you get the point.
My Challenge Week
My first day was off to a pretty rough start when I woke up to an empty fridge, snack box and lost car keys:
I ended up going to our dining hall and had a slice of toast, tuna, cranberries and cole slaw for an interesting brunch. Definitely not like the brunches we’re used to.
Being the responsible and organized human I am, I still could not find my car keys, so on day two, I headed to the campus grocery store and bought myself a box of Easy Mac and a box of assorted oatmeal. This would be my breakfast and dinner for almost every day for the rest of the week. Easy Mac every day? Some would be excited about this. But I didn’t even have the cash money to spice it up.
Initially, I thought, “Oh great! This won’t be so bad. Mac and cheese is my favorite food and instant oatmeal is pretty good if you get creative.” Well, I was wrong. I haven’t had oatmeal or mac and cheese since this challenge ended. Seriously, talk about carb(over)loading.
There was some anger…
Mixed with some kindness…
And many, many cravings for cookies, coffee and vegetables (mostly for these cookies).
When the final day was over, I ate a whole bowl of broccoli and a cookie because #skinny and reflected back on my experience. My class and I all agreed that doing this challenge was insightful and definitely worth it. We learned so much about ourselves and others around us that we would have never known or noticed without doing this challenge.
Why should you do the challenge?
The purpose of this challenge is not to lose weight or build mental toughness. The challenge educates those about all the injustices in our country that negatively affect all people living in low-income communities. And trust me, there is a startling number of them.
Without food, it is hard to have the energy to work hours and hours every week to make enough money to properly feed a family and pay for all necessary living and schooling requirements.
The SNAP challenge’s purpose is to create awareness of the millions of people who live their lives in constant hunger, stress and exhaustion. The SNAP challenge opened my eyes to a world I am fortunate enough to have never experienced, and I encourage you all to think about it before you bite into that #foodporn we all know and love.