According to http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats, hunger is the world’s number one health risk. Going into the challenge I knew this was a huge issue worldwide, however the fact that it kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis is shocking.
Depending on several different factors, such as if you’re healthy to begin with or if you’re drinking water, the human body can go up to eight weeks without food. Today was the first day that I was starving. It hadn’t even been 24hrs since I’d last eaten but I felt miserable and I could tell it was effecting my entire day. I can’t imagine the pain of eight weeks without food. At first this might seem like an issue that only 3rd world countries might face (it did to me) but when I start looking more in depth about child hunger in America I was horrified. “More than 16 million, or almost one in five, American children are at risk of hunger. Each child facing hunger potentially goes to bed hungry at some point in the year due to a lack of household resources to secure an adequate food supply.” Our country focuses on so many other issues and even worldwide hunger itself so in my eyes it seems like our own nation’s children are being overlooked. I have sympathy for children in general since a lot of what happens to them isn’t in their control. That’s why I’m glad that at least our country is on the road to combating this issue with the SNAP program, however there is a lot of progress and improvement to be made.
Today was the last full day of the challenge. This week I have noticed a couple different repeating thoughts each day. For one, the lack of options has been hard. I open our pantry or refrigerator and see that 80% of the things in there I can't have this week because my roommate and I bought them before the challenge started. I've also noticed that with the limited budget I had to shop with on Monday, I was not able to buy things other than staples like rice, beans, eggs, and pasta. This may sound silly, but my inability to prepare for long days by bringing snacks with me has been rather difficult. There are days where I have class 9:00am-3:30 pm (every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and I usually pack a lunch or if I forget I can buy one. After my afternoon class I usually go straight to the library, snacks in hand to keep me going until I elide I can take a break for some real, substantive dinner. I had a long, hungry evening in the library tonight because I didn't want to take a break to go home for dinner, I had not been home since 7:30 this morning and also was not able to bring any sort of snack foods with me today. This 5-day simulation obviously differs in many ways from what it would be like to actually need assistance from programs like SNAP, but even in this week I have grown somewhat unenthused with the options in my refrigerator. It's a shame, because food is something so valuable and under appreciated in our society, and I do not think it's fair that limited monetary resources may be one cause for such disinterest. I mean, truly, when I glance at the rice and beans dish that I have eaten for 2/3 of my meals for the lat few days, it's very unexciting. I lose interest in eating and food. I don't know if this is realistic, because food stamps are allotted on a monthly basis, not weekly, and therefore may allow for more purchasing flexibility than I was able to get with my $20, but the lack of variety is frustrating. Or, maybe, in reality living off of a food stamp-like budget is even more difficult than this one week simulation. I cannot say, and I'm sure it depend on each individual's experience as t how they feel about programs like SNAP. Despite it's imperfections, this week has given me insight to some of the feelings and limitations that exist for people who, undeservingly, are robbed of the luxury to have variety in their cabinets and colorful selection of tens of kinds of vegetables, etc. Food deserves to be appreciated, and people deserve to appreciate it!
Today I started off eating the normal oatmeal and made a thermos of coffee for class. Unfortunately, the oatmeal was not enough to last me through 5 hours of class and I had a hard time focusing. I had three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches again which is plenty of food. For dinner I had pasta again. I eat a lot of food and carbs a day on this diet, but the only healthy meal is the oatmeal. People say America has a lot of diet and health issues, as well as a large amount of obese people. I can’t imagine what our nations health would be like if everyone was on a $4.40 budget. The food I bought is also healthier than the other options I had from the frozen food isle, which is probably where a lot of other people would go on this diet. One thing I predict in the future though, is how much money I spend on foods that I would consider cheap prior to doing this challenge. Our current economy is not in good shape, and will take years to bring it back to what it once was. That being said, it is really important that a better, healthy, SNAP program be made to compensate for the growing rate of financially insecure Americans. The program works OKAY right now.. But if more people need to go on the program then the cost per day per person will fall below $4.40 and the price of food is only inflating. The SNAP program is not leaving me hungry by any means, but I’m definitely feeling the malnutrition of this diet.
Ohhhh SNAP. I also got to be a part of the Oxfam Hunger banquet Wednesday night. According to their website, “At this interactive event, the place where you sit and the meal that you eat are determined by the luck of the draw—just as in real life some of us are born into relative prosperity and others into poverty.” I definitely showed up hungry, and then drew a low income card along with the majority of the people there. This put me on the floor with rice to eat and dirty water to drink. Not gonna lie, I tried to put back that card and draw again. That somehow the odds should be in my favor; that—after 4 days of a tiny amount of self-deprivation—I deserved a better meal than the other people around me. There was that entitlement coming out in me. Often we feel like we are where we are entirely because of ourselves and our actions. That we created success or stability all on our own. And that those “beneath” us don’t work as hard or made stupid decision, because otherwise they’d be right alongside us, right? And “life’s fair” would be the common phrase.
Last night reminded me that it’s not. I sat on the floor and ate all my rice and most of my kind neighbor’s, and realized that most of the other people simulating the low income majority (those that make less than $987 a year) were not even touching the rice. Don’t get me wrong— if I had been eating normally this week I might not have either. But wow, how lucky are we to have the opportunity to turn down food that we haven’t worked for on a daily basis??
I learned that hunger comes back to power. It stems from the inequality that exists in access to opportunity or resources. Ironically, last night I heard that 1 in 7 people in the world go hungry every day—after learning this week that 1 in 7 Americans utilize SNAP. I was well reminded that we all have the same basic needs (food, water, shelter); it’s our circumstances that differ. And if you’re reading this, you have power. Power to share, power to think of other’s needs and not just your wants, power to defend injustice. That looks different for each one of us, but we don’t have to watch Spiderman to remember that with it comes responsibility.