Leadership and Social Justice


I am very blessed. I have never been in a position where I was food insecure and had to ration out my food so that I wouldn’t run out. The SNAP Challenge is a yearly event hosted by Feeding America. It’s purpose is to bring awareness to hunger and food insecurity in America. It gives the fixed amount of $4.50 a day, that you can spend on food. They do this in order to simulate would it be like to have to live on food stamps in America, which supplied over 40 million in 2018. At the grocery store, I tried to buy as much food as possible with the limited money that I am given. I bought all my food upfront, so I wouldn’t have to spend $4.50 every day. I multiplied $4.50 by 5 for five days, which equated to $22.50. I buy eggs, fruit, cereal, milk, sardines, lunch meat, bread, mayo and orange juice and a few extra snacks. This feels like enough food to last me a couple of days, but I’m an athlete with a high metabolism and I eat a lot, so maybe not. Let’s see how it goes.

Day 1: This morning I woke up and went for a run at 6am. When I got back home, I showered then I made some eggs and bacon that I bought from the store. I also drank some orange juice that I bought from the grocery store. It actually felt good to wake up and cook breakfast for myself, it gave me a sense of accomplishment and self-sufficiency to start my day.

Lunch was a bit more of a struggle than breakfast. It kind of sucked to had to walk all the way back home just to make a sandwich. I will definitely have to pack tomorrow. For lunch, I ate a ham and cheese cold-cut sandwich with a glass of water.

My hunger definitely grew stronger as the day went on. By the time it was time for dinner, I was starving. I worked out, so I burned a lot of calories which made me even more hungry. I developed a strong urge to go to chipotle, which made me think, I can’t be this spoiled and privileged. It’s only the first day! Fortunately, I shook my urge, came home and made three sandwiches instead and ate dry cereal. This certainly wasn’t as tasty or satisfying as burrito bowl, but I ate from what I bought and it did fill me up a good amount. However, I had to eat a lot of the food that I bought in order to be full and it’s only the first day.

Day 2: I had a very similar routine to yesterday. I woke up and went for my run, then I came back and showered. Instead this time, I ate cereal and strawberries instead of making eggs.

When lunch time came around today, I was ready to eat! But once again I forgot to pack my lunch, so I had to go all the way back home to fix some sardines and crackers with mustard. The walk back home today for lunch, didn’t feel any better than it did yesterday. I had to walk past Blackstone, Vocelli’s and the UC with plenty of money on my flex to get something which made it hard not to stop by because it’s so convenient. This challenge is really starting to make me understand not only the lack of food options or sufficient food options, but also the inconvenience of only being able to eat things from home and not being able to afford to buy food from a store.

For dinner tonight, I ate cereal again. It’s hard to enjoy food, when it feels like you are constantly eating the same thing over and over. I also was starving, so I had to eat 3 bowls of frosted flakes.

Day 3: This morning I woke up with a lot less energy than I usually do, so I didn’t go for my run. I ate bowl of cereal and a banana for breakfast and went to class. I decided to pack two sandwiches in zip lock bags for lunch so I wouldn’t have to walk all the way back home.

After my morning class, I started to develop a mild headache. I went to the library to study and I ate one of the sandwiches I packed. My teammate jokingly asked if he would have one. I told him absolutely not, I realized how much more valuable and protective I was over my food now since it wasn’t as easy to come by for me at the moment.

For dinner, I had no choice but to go to the UC. I started to feel lightheaded. I just really needed a well balanced meal with sufficient calories. I felt a little guilty that I slipped up, but the food tasted great and was very satisfying. The UC Food tasted the best it ever has tonight.

Day 4: For breakfast, I ate a bowl of Lucky Charms after my run. I felt a lot better this morning and had more energy than I’ve had since I started this challenge. I think it’s because I had a good sized, well-balanced dinner in the UC last night.

I packed some sardines and crackers for lunch today, but I was still hungry after I ate them. I ended up getting some grapes from the nest, because I knew I had fruit at home I could eat but I didn’t want to walk all the way back.

For dinner tonight, I had a strong urge to eat in the UC or go to Vocelli’s but I didn’t do it. I went home and made cold cut sandwiches for dinner, however I am now out of bread and almost out of cheese.

Day 5: This morning I ate the last of my eggs and drank my final glass of orange juice for breakfast.

I actually decided to skip lunch today. I had a lot of work to do and I didn’t have much food left so I drank a coffee and sucked it up. I did get a coffee from Blackstone though.

By the time dinner came around, I felt that my blood sugar was low. I was starving, so I ate 2 bowls of cereal and the last of my fruit.

During this challenge, I found there is a lot unforeseen adversity that comes with living on food stamps. It isn’t just a lack of sufficient food. Not having enough food and feeling hungry diminishes your mood. It also obviously depletes your energy and makes you less motivated to do everything. I am someone that is currently living on a beautiful college campus in Fredericksburg,VA, but I know most people living on food stamps do not live in nice places. I can’t imagine being in a poor living situation, in addition to not having sufficient food available. If I lived like this over an extended period of time, I’d probably be a totally different person with a completely different temperament. I only did the challenge for five days and I couldn’t even do it for that long without having to eat at the UC because I felt lightheaded. It’s depressing to think that there are people who live like this everyday of their lives. I told my father, while I was doing the challenge, how inconvenient and difficult it was only being able to eat a limited amount of food from home. He just told me to consider myself lucky because for him growing up on modest means like this wasn’t a class experiment, it was his life. He grew up in Hampton,VA and comes from humble beginnings, so he knows what it is like not to have much. This challenge gave me a small glimpse of what it would be like to have to live on food stamps. It makes me feel much more aware and cognizant of the realities that many people have to face everyday. This challenge has certainly humbled me and made me very thankful for all the things I do have.

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