There is debate about recent reductions in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps, and further proposed cuts. Politicians and activists, on both sides of the issue, often take what's know as The Food Stamp Challenge where they live for a week spending only the average SNAP benefit amount on their food.
I also have done this challenge in the past to help raise awareness for the efforts of the San Francisco food bank. Although I did not need any eye opening to support the efforts of food banks - they've always been at the top of my list of charitable organizations I give to - the experience nonetheless educated me a bit further to the challenges people who rely on SNAP benefits face.
Photo from USDAgov via Flickr
Still, there are a whole host of challenges that I and the politicians, activists and celebrities who sacrifice a bit for a week will never truly know or experience. This brilliant post, "Why I Won't Do The Food Stamp Challenge" by Sharon Astyk at ScienceBlogs explains this well.
How well will you do in school or at work with a week of living on two slices of bread a day with peanut butter – all that is left of the food stamp budget? Or the days when it is bread with ketchup packets lifted from McDonalds on it? How will you do lying in your bed smelling food from other people’s use of the communal kitchen and crying because there’s nothing to eat? How will you feel when after three hours in the cold in line at the food pantry you come away with nothing, because there was only food for the first 200 people, and you were number 239? How will you feel when you have to choose between letting your kids go dirty to school and letting them go hungry?
One of the considerations Astyk points out is that among the many things we take for granted buying at the grocery store are feminine hygiene products and that you cannot purchase these products with food stamps.
I went to a Catholic high school. We had to take classes in Religion every semester. In one class where we covered social justice issues our teacher listed the items that went into the calculation for welfare benefits. Included was an allowance for two sanitary napkins for a woman per month. The majority of women would be unable to go to work for the duration of their monthly periods if they had to make do with only two sanitary napkins per month.
That statistic shocked me and that's how poverty, hunger and homelessness became primary issues where I focus my support and giving efforts. I encourage you to read Sharon Astyk's post and consider supporting your local food bank with your money or your time and writing your representatives to urge them to not cut desperately needed SNAP benefits.
Have you ever done a Food Stamp Challenge? What did it teach you?