Thursday, May 3, 2012

An Artificial Challenge? By Lisa with Northwoods

A lot of people have commented that the Food Stamp Challenge is an artificial one. I have heard more than one person (in a blog or in person) express concern that somehow participating in the Challenge makes light of the actual experience of people who use food stamp benefits. I can see both of these positions. I agree that it is artificial; I can go back to my eating habits when it is over. Someone taking the challenge who is able to manage their five-day budget might come to the conclusion that it really isn’t that hard. But my experience does not support that position.

In these five short days I have gotten a good sense of how exhausting and difficult it is to manage food on a very tight budget. While I think I have managed my budget and meal planning successfully, it hasn’t been easy or all that much fun. My choices are limited, there is no wiggle room, and if I make a choice I don’t like, tough. And I have minimal obstacles. I have my own transportation so I have shopping options. I have a regular work schedule. I don’t have kids. And, I have a kitchen full of cooking tools, like a Crock-Pot and reliable refrigeration to store leftovers.

So, yes it is just an exercise and it is always easy to judge other people’s decisions, but going through this has been more than an exercise for me. While I supported programs like SNAP before the Challenge, I have a much different understanding now of why they matter.

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