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Across the country, the month of September is designated as Hunger Action Month to bring awareness about hunger and to inspire people to take action to eliminate hunger in their community.  One activity is the SNAP Challenge, when people attempt to live on the current SNAP (formerly food stamps) budget. 

“Can you live on just $4 per day for food?” That is the question the SNAP Challenge asked and I decided to give it a try.  After all, so many clients of the Houston Food Bank face this challenge daily, I should be able to do it for a week, right?  My SNAP Challenge diary:

What did you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? 

Monday:  French toast (eggs and white bread), peanut butter and banana sandwich, bouillon with veggies and pasta

Tuesday:  yogurt and banana, bouillon with veggies and pasta, chicken thighs and pasta

Wednesday:  toast and scrambled eggs, chicken thighs and pasta, bread and peanut butter

Thursday:  yogurt, toast, chicken and veggies

Friday:  toast, pasta and chicken thighs, bread and peanut butter

Were you able to eat all three meals? Or did you need to snack between meals to feel full?

Yes, I was able to eat three full meals daily.

Did you find yourself thinking about food more than normal throughout the day?

Yes. I realized how often food is offered or simply available when at work, hanging out with friends, and in social settings. 

What do you normally splurge on that you couldn’t have?  How did that make you feel?

Sweets. I like to bake cookies and cakes. The ingredients were too expensive to make anything during this challenge and I missed having little treats. Luckily I had bought some natural apple juice so that helped my sweet cravings during the week. 

What was most challenging?

Dealing with the monotony of meal choices was pretty rough. I never realized how much variety I have in my diet until I did this challenge. All the items I bought are foods that I like. However, eating basically the same thing over and over again gets quite boring, even if you try to bring in some variety with different sauces and spices.

Did you have an ‘a-ha!’ moment?

My “a-ha moment” was that you can easily live off of only $20 a week. Going into the challenge I assumed I needed to get the most food I could in order to not go hungry. This made me select less healthy items in exchange for a larger quantity (i.e, a large loaf of white bread instead of a smaller loaf of whole wheat; pasta and beans instead of more fruits and veggies). However, I ended up having plenty of food. I didn’t event finish the chicken, pasta, and beans that I bought! The main issue was the variety and lack of more nutritious foods. I missed not being able to eat a good salad for dinner or having a piece of fruit as a snack. 

What did you do in preparation for the challenge?

I looked at ads for good grocery deals. I then selected items I thought would last the week and be easy to prepare in different ways. I ended up buying pasta, white bread, pinto beans, 2 bags of frozen veggies, peanut butter, 2 bananas, one can of tomato sauce, 12 eggs, 2 yogurt cups, PBR, and chicken thighs. On the last day, I had $2 left and spent it on strawberries, which I devoured!  If I do the challenge again I will plan my shopping list even better. I will try to be healthier, perhaps purchase only one bulk item such as rice, omit the bread or beans, and ensure that I have more veggies and fruit for the week.

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