My experience in the snap challenge was unique because unlike the other participants, I did not have an oven. I was told by some that it would be harder and I should really think about if I would still want to do this challenge because of that. I said yes because this might not be the first thing people think about, but there are many people currently living in poverty who barely own a working refrigerator, let alone a working gas oven. And if they do have an oven, sometimes it may get shut off because there was not enough money for the gas bill. Realistically, a microwave is less expensive to own in a household so I took that as part of the challenge for the week.
Additionally, it added a new topic for consideration when shopping for my groceries. I could not get enough food that would make an adequate amount of healthy food to last four days (meal prep style) so the majority of the food I bought for lunch and dinner was packed with preservatives because that is what cooks the fastest in the microwave. For example, I bought various flavored packets of Knorr quick&ready pasta and rice for dinner and the infamous Ramen bowls for lunch. This started to affect me at the end of day two; rather than making this and stuffing my body with unhealthy food, I chose to not eat at all. While I was hungry, I preferred that over the sick feeling I would have the rest of the day after eating that food. While I had the luxury of ending this unhealthy food kick by the end of the week, people living in poverty often only have these foods as an option. Not to mention in poorer neighborhoods there is not as much access to healthier foods to begin with so that is another issue.
I was able to get a few healthy things as well, but it was more expensive so I could not get as much of it. For example, as a snack, I got two pomegranates that had to last four days, which did not work out too well because I got a little bit too hungry on day two.
The best thing I learned from doing this challenge is first, to be more understanding of people’s financial situations and how this impacts them. Even if you do not take into account the struggle to pay bills, keep your house and take care of your children while you are at work, the sole struggle to put food on the table for you and your kids is something unimaginable. There are parents who will not eat just so their kids can know the feeling of a full stomach. This experience really opened my eyes to this.
To go off of my previous point, thinking about the children who often go to sleep hungry or with an upset stomach because of unhealthy food, it does not get any better when you wake up, in fact it often gets worse. It made me think about how the children must feel throughout the school day. Being hungry is definitely a factor that can distract you from school work, it can make you have less energy to focus, or to even fall asleep in class. So your financial situation affects your hunger which affects your ability to perform well in school which could affect your ability to graduate and go to college which affects your entire life. Now that might be an extreme, but this is reality for thousands of families all over the country.
I am extremely glad I participated in this challenge and will take what I learned to educate others on these issues and give back to local communities with families who struggle with this.