Anxiety, Isolation & Empathy: Three Days on the Food Stamp Challenge

By United Way of King County, on March 20, 2014 | In Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Guest blogger Constance McBarron shares her food stamp challenge challenges. She is a United Way Emerging Leader and a PR professional at Barokas PR.

I have always been a good eater. My husband jokes “Are you going to finish that?” will be written on my gravestone. I dressed as a slice of blueberry pie for Halloween, for goodness sake.

Pie-CostumeMy two siblings are the same way – probably because growing up, our dad told us about what is was like to live off of food stamps. If we whined about another day of peanut butter and jelly, he would say, “Do you know what a Wish Sandwich is? It’s when you wish you had something between your two slices of bread. Those were the sandwiches I would eat.”

Recently I learned that 25% of Washington kids struggle with hunger every day. How ridiculous is it that while I ogle pictures of food on Pinterest and plot my next sumptuous recipe from Martha Stewart, children just like my dad struggle to just eat… anything?

So I volunteered my husband and myself to take the Food Stamp Challenge for three days. According to the Washington state Basic Food minimum benefit, a two-person household is allotted only $11.50 per day, meaning we have a budget of $34.50 to cover all of our meals for the three days.

Going into the challenge, we knew that planning would play an important role. We planned out our meals and made a grocery list. And then we had to clip coupons. And go to three different stores in order to price shop and get everything on our list. (What would we do if we didn’t have a car?) The anxiety we felt waiting for the total at each store was intense. It’s not that we don’t normally use a budget; it’s just not “to the penny. “

Not only did we feel anxious- we felt isolated.

We didn’t go out to lunch with our work friends. We didn’t go out to happy hour. This was just three days! How stressful and lonely is it to have food insecurity day in and day out?

We do not mean to trivialize the issue: we know that choosing to restrict our food budget for three days in no way represents the real challenges some of our neighbors face every day. However, embarking on this challenge has been an exercise in empathy and has made us even more committed to find ways to get more involved and help those in need.

Are you in your 20’s or 30’s and looking for ways to help fight hunger in Washington? Sign up to receive our Emerging Leaders emails to get invitations to volunteer and network with like-minded people.


July 17, 2014

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