I spent this week participating in the Hunger Action Challenge, meaning that my boyfriend and I ate on the equivalent of a food stamp budget for the week. You can see all of my posts about it here.
The idea of the challenge is to raise awareness of the problems of people who are going hungry in our society. When I was asked by United Way of King County to participate, it seemed like a nice idea, an opportunity to do something helpful with my blog. Did I for one second think that the act of living on a budget for a week was going to simulate life in poverty? Absolutely not! It was interesting to see the various approaches and various comments that went up around the blogosphere regarding the attitudes and actions of the bloggers participating (you can find the full list on United Way’s blog).
Can you use food you already owned, if you pay it back? Could you use kitchen machinery that you already owned? The list of questions goes on and the comments got more and more aggressive. To me, however, I completed the challenge in the way that I thought was appropriate and I think that I did learn from it.
Yes, I spent money on wine, which technically you can’t use food stamps for. Yes, I used an immersion blender. But at the heart of the challenge I noticed a few major changes in my attitude towards food. First of all, I took fewer risks. Instead of grabbing the nearest intriguing looking vegetable, I chose ones I knew well. I didn’t make my usual new recipes of exciting ethnic delicacies, but rather stuck to easy favorites. Contributing to that was that I planned ahead. I often don’t know what I’ll cook or what vegetable I’ll want until I leave work and head to the store, so budgeting out the money and planning my menus ahead of time was a little hard for me. By Friday, I was ready for it to be over, I’ll admit. I just want to give myself the opportunity to be inspired by the food again, instead of thinking about my dinner 4 days ahead of time!
Interestingly, by asking food bloggers to participate, I think United Way found a group of people with no problem making fabulous, nutritious meals under the small budget, which could take away a little from the challenge. At the end of the challenge, though, I think it is clear that yes, life is different and difficult when living on government assistance (did any of us doubt that?), but the challenge is more about creating that awareness than duplicating the experience.