Today is the last day of my SNAP Challenge! This has been quite a week. Although the meals were repetitive, the moods weren’t. I went through quite the roller-coaster this week. From pride to participate in a great challenge, to fear of running out of food, as well as the frustration of discovering my caffeine “addiction”. I won’t lie, I am glad that the week is over. Living on such a tight food budget was difficult. Although I managed to buy enough food and not run out before the end of the week, I did have to sacrifice some foods that I am accustomed to have in my daily meals, mostly fresh produce…as well as my good old coffee.
Here are the main things I learned during the challenge:
- It is scary to think that you might run out of food before the end of the week without being able to buy more.
- Making sure to have enough meals is not the same as making sure you eat enough calories daily. I had a significant calorie deficit every day and, as a consequence, I lost several pounds this week. This could be seen as a victory since I am trying to lose weight but I know that the speed at which I lost it was abnormal and unhealthy.
- I will do my very best, from now on, to not buy more food than I need. I cannot stand the thought of wasting food (from buying too much) when other people go to bed hungry.
The challenge brought awareness about the issue hunger in America but it also made me review my thought-process when it comes to grocery shopping. Although I have always looked for deals, I have always been loose with my grocery lists. Items get added just because, often being wasted by the end of the week. As I had to prepare for the upcoming week, I want to re-organize my food planning and shopping. Before going to the store, I made a list of this week’s meals and put the necessary ingredients on the shopping list. I also made sure to check the weekly circular to see if any deals could help me plan the week. Once I was at the store, I only bought the items on my list, nothing else. That really was a small victory for me.
I will end my challenge post with a few facts about the SNAP program: (from FeedingAmerica.org)
- Over 47 million low-income Americans participate in SNAP to help purchase food.
- 76 percent of SNAP households include a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83 percent of all SNAP benefits.
- 83 percent of SNAP households have incomes at or below 100 percent of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013). These households receive 91 percent of all SNAP benefits.
- Program eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130 percent of the federal poverty level and no more than $2000 in assets. Participants must also meet work and citizenship requirements.
- The average SNAP household has about 2 people, with a gross monthly income of $744 and countable assets of just $331.
- The average monthly SNAP benefit per person was $133.41 in FY2012, or less than $1.50 per person per meal.
- 90 percent of SNAP benefits are redeemed by day 21 of the benefit period – meaning most SNAP benefits are not enough to last recipients all month.
- All SNAP participants will see a drop in their benefits on November 1, 2013 – the average decrease will be $36 for a family of four. Over the entire year, the average family of four will have $396 less to spend on food.