Well, here we are. Day 7 marks the end of my journey in this SNAP Challenge.
So many things to say here, but let’s take a quick inventory. I barely made it through on the food that I purchased on Day 0. All I have left from that is a banana, 1 packet of oatmeal, a handful of dried lentils and less than a cup of milk. If not for the family gathering on Day 3, I would certainly have run out. I lost about 5 pounds over the last week, though I would not attribute it all to the challenge but really more to the fact that I did not allow myself to eat obscene portions of unhealthy things.
I ran into “Maggie” at the library again and she was raving about her new-found cooking skills – seems she makes a mean cheese omelette. She thanked me profusely and went on to say how she was making plans for getting a better paying job and move away from SNAP. There is a new lilt in her walk and she holds her head up a little higher now. She is well on her way to being one of the success stories of SNAP.
I have received so many notes, messages and calls from people about my journey. There are far too many to list individually, but suffice it to say that my ability to get through it all was bolstered by their support and coaching. For that I am eternally grateful. To the couple that left me eggs and crackers on Day 1 – you made this challenge a little less bland and you humbled me. To my friends and family who rallied together to help celebrate my son’s weekend home from college – thanks for not judging what I could bring to the table and honoring that I could just be at the table. Finally, to all of the followers that offered tips, advice and well-wishes – I have appreciated you being constant companions along this road.
My hope is that those of you who have followed my progress over the last week learned a little more about SNAP. Understanding this issue, seeing the face of this program, defining the struggles and addressing the enabling variables to dependency versus opportunity have given me the experience of getting closer to SNAP. I have been in a unique position to be an observer, a student, an advocate and a virtual participant. I have seen the realities of SNAP and also the opportunities that it presents.The challenge of food insecurity is very real in our communities, and it is not just another social ill that can be masked with just funding. There are the imperatives of awareness, education and strategy within this equation that need more visibilty. Further, food insecurity is not a singluar issue, but is only one cog in a larger machine that drives us forward.
While some may look at this social experiment as ending, for me it is just a beginning. The fact-finding and experiential phase gives us a foundational platform from which to build upon. Biddeford has a little more than 15% of it’s population living at or below the poverty level. On any given month, we have anywhere from 15-20% of residents who qualify for SNAP. Working to find ways to decrease poverty in our city is both a moral imperative and good for us economically. Investing in our people is always a sound proposition that realizes real dividends and paves the way for economic development and business growth. It doesn’t do Biddeford any good to forge ahead with a vision to infuse big commerce onto the landscape when it comes at the expense of those that can least afford the costs. We are stronger as a city when everyone is on a path to prosperity and self-suffiiency.
To anyone who can say that they learned more about SNAP as a result of my experience, I encourage you to consider what you can do to be an integral part of the solution. Never underestimate the power of even the smallest gesture. One need not take on the full SNAP Challenge to help. We are all in this together.
Get Social. Get Thinking. Get Hungry!