I got “unliked” for taking the Food Stamp Challenge on my Green Spiral Facebook Page last week. I was equally unprepared for the interest people would take in the challenge, and the rich conversations that followed as the week unfolded.
Championed by food activists and faith groups, The Food Stamp Challenge is a nation-wide program designed to raise awareness about hunger and healthy food. The basic idea is to eat on a food stamp budget of less than $31 per week, or $1.50 per meal. That means $5 dinners for a family of four.
My purpose was to look at the Food Stamp Challenge through the lens of sustainability, so I bent the rules of the game from ‘no cheating!’ and ‘no sharing!’ to that of deepening empathy and cultivating understanding; the point of the exercise was certainly not to inflict pain. I basically kept myself to simple meals and served $5 dinners for a week, invoking a family discussion around the dinner table every night.
Taking the challenge a week before Thanksgiving turned out to be a handy way of eating down the pantry while increasing appreciation for a feast in the making, thus preparing the heart for giving true thanks.
Here’s a condensed list of the lessons learned:
Day 1: Meat is prized, and veggies become optional.
Day 2: Addictions tighten their grip at the mere thought of being taken away.
Day 3: Grains feed the world, but who has time to cook?
Day 4: Eat soup, and share.
Day 5: If you can’t start a garden, at least get rid of the dog.
Day 6: Ethnic food is just somebody else’s home cooking.
Day 7: Like it or not, we are likely to grow up and become just like our parents.
The Food Stamp Challenge came to my attention through friend Amy Gage via Rabbi Susan Talvey of CRC (Central Reform Congregation). You can read more about the challenge and see posts by 35 others at the CRC site here: http://crchungerchallenge.blogspot.com/
Here’s a link to the video trailer for “Food Stamped”, a documentary about living on a food stamp budget: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzY7duIVMoE
And here’s a link to my Green Spiral blog, which includes daily recipes and a deeper look at the Food Stamp Challenge through a sustainable lens:
The Food Stamp Challenge will come around again, so watch for it next year at this time; I encourage you to embrace it and adapt it as you see fit. If experience is the best teacher, writing fixes the learning in place. I am changed for the better after one short week, and gladly enter this season of thanks with a bigger heart, more empathy, greater understanding and after making a contribution to a local food bank, a lighter gait.