During my SNAP challenge, I mostly used my $4 a day to buy half-prepared meals that are available at most grocery stores. I do not like to cook, and I am not familiar with more advanced recipes, thus, it was the best option for me. I bought meals with many different vegetables in them, such as a wok or Hawaiian mix, so that I would have a nutritious and healthy meal. Occasionally, I would eat at fast-food restaurants to have some meat-including meal; however, it only happened twice this week. Overall, it was not that different from my everyday choice of food and beverages, since I prefer to eat and drink at least semi-healthy food.
However, before the challenge, I would go to fast-food restaurants more often, as I often do not have the energy or time to even reheat a half-prepared meal. Moreover, the amount of $4 was not enough for me, since it would only be sufficient to buy one meal, and I usually need to eat at least twice a day. Thus, I can say that I have, indeed, experienced some physical hunger from time to time. It was not a big deal for me, as I am mostly used to consuming fewer calories than I need. Although it was indeed frustrating – mostly because I was not allowed to spend more, and buy myself a snack or two during the day. Still, there was not much of a deprivation feeling other than that.
I missed one social event during my challenge week – my friend asked me to go out for drinks, and I refused her. It was because $4 would not be enough for a bad trip, and I did not want to impose it on my friend. I cannot say that this experience felt too bad, as I often refuse to go out with my friends because I am tired or simply not in the mood. However, the fact that I cannot go due to the lack of money upset me a little.
I now understand that living in poverty is very depriving and exhausting, especially today when there are so many choices of food and drinks, but many of them are simply not affordable to the poor. If I had to live long-term only on SNAP benefits, I would grow much more irritated and tired. I have already experienced a bit of these feelings in the last two days of the challenge week and felt immense relief when it finally ended. Now I can truly empathize with the people who live in poverty, as I understand their everyday struggle and know how much they have to refuse themselves in every aspect of life.
I do not think that the government has done justice to the SNAP program. I understand that the program is designed to provide additional help, and not be the only source of money for a person or family. However, with the current situation in the labor market, when the unemployment rates are high, especially with the whole COVID-19 pandemics, I think there is a need to reconsider the importance of this program. Keith-Jennings et al. (2019) also add that “some vulnerable groups have limited SNAP eligibility, and some eligible individuals face barriers to SNAP participation” (p. 1636). Thus, the state needs to improve the whole process of allocating money to the poor, as the changes in the social environment are immense nowadays.
I think that the most significant thing that I have realized after participating in the SNAP challenge is the fact that the food situation can be very dire if your income is limited. Moreover, now I see how many unnecessary products I buy almost every day, and how exactly these purchases affect my budget. I think this challenge made me truly reconsider my food choices, as well as helped me to emphasize more the people who have to live in poverty.
Keith-Jennings, B., Llobrera, J., & Dean, S. (2019). Links of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program with food insecurity, poverty, and health: Evidence and potential. American Journal of Public Health, 109(12), 1636–1640. Web.