Day Six: “Who’s Hungry?”
On a long car trip when a fast food joint comes into view, someone will shout it.
If you walk into your office with a giant pizza box in your hands, you can call out to your co-workers.
When the holiday meal is ready after hours of waiting, it’s a summons to gather and share something special – or even sacred.
Who IS hungry? This past week, that question has taken on a very different meaning for me.
I’ve been participating in the SNAP* Challenge to experience what it’s like to feed yourself with no more than $31.50 per week. (You can read back through prior blog entries for more about what’s happened so far.) I started out hoping to get a sense of how people on a limited food budget cope with the logistics, limitations and difficulties of making ends meet. I wanted to confront the blind spots in my own admittedly haphazard understanding of hunger, its scope and its impact.
Getting my mind around all of this has been another kind of challenge altogether. I read hundreds of pages of policy and statistical research, interviewed experts, responded to blog posts – then tried to distill down what I’d absorbed into any sort of basic grasp of the who, what, when, where, and why of hunger. I wanted to understand how we as individuals, a community, and a society make decisions to address the hunger crisis.
“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter,” wrote Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. I agree with him. I swam in knowledge, gained little understanding, and certainly failed this aspect of the challenge I undertook.
I’m writing this post the morning of Day Seven of the SNAP Challenge. In the next few days, I’ll continue to respond to your comments, then I’ll wrap up.
I don’t remember what I ate yesterday, on Day Six, and it doesn’t matter. I haven’t done the math to see if I succeeded in feeding myself on the $31.50 I’d get from food stamps, but that’s no longer the point for me – and that’s exactly the point. People I know, people I care about, people you and I will never meet are struggling. That much, I now understand.
*SNAP is the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. And for many low-income individuals and families, it’s not a supplement; it’s their only means of buying food.
Amy is documenting her experiences with the SNAP Challenge all this week. Check back daily for updates.