Marketing & Communications
The Falcon Hunger Challenge - Chris Frey
It took a while to process the experience of the Hunger Challenge. I made it through the week just a little over the monetary limit, but I did my best to stay true to the goals of the program. I participated in this to experience what it might be like to live within the means of a government program, but also to bring attention to hunger in our area. Even as the unemployment rate in Wood County is falling, many food banks in our Bowling Green community struggle to keep their shelves stocked. It’s tempting during the slow economic recovery to want to forget that while things are improving many people are still struggling, including students. The cost of attending university leaves too many of them deciding between rent, utilities and food. And for people who receive SNAP (food stamp) benefits, the first of the year will likely bring another belt-tightening – the Toledo Blade reported just last week that SNAP benefits will be reduced by $50 a month for a family of four, or a drop of about $3 per person per week. I now know that this means a meal or two during the week. The Blade also reported that over $3 billion is distributed to Ohioans each year through SNAP benefits, which illustrates the scale of the need in our state. This is an excellent time to think about what you can do to help alleviate hunger in your community: donate time, money or goods to a food bank here or in your hometown, write to your member of Congress about the impending cut in benefits, and do what you can to support programs that alleviate poverty and hunger.
Wednesday, Nov. 7
Certainly, the home-made pot of coffee ($1) made my day brighter. But, I was late to a meeting this morning because I realized at the last minute that I didn't have anything to eat in my office for the whole day, so I had to make two sandwiches. I can't be so thoughtless and irresponsible, or else I would either not have eaten, or I would have blasted through my budget for the week eating on campus.
One persistent change I've noticed is how I socialize in relation to food. I often think nothing of asking for a meeting at Starbucks, or going to lunch together. Last week, I was asked to join a couple of folks from campus to have lunch with an official from Toledo. That lunch was today, and I was really torn about whether I could, or should order off the menu with them, or eat my peanut butter and jelly while their lunch was served to them. I believe I can accept food that is bought for me if I didn't attend a function in order to get that food. (That's how I had a couple slices of pizza on Monday night – thanks Native American Unity Council!) My lunch (tuna salad on wheat) was bought for me, and I graciously accepted. But another really interesting effect of doing the Hunger Challenge is that I get to talk about it with other people. So, a few moments of our lunch meeting were devoted to talking about the Falcon Hunger Challenge. Since I'm doing this quite publicly, I've also had people in my College ask how it's going, and I've really appreciated the opportunity to chat about not just the Challenge, but all of these other related issues – socializing, more responsibility, repetitive meals, and so on. As a last thought, I wonder how this would be different if I were really living within these means on a daily basis, and no one was "proud" of me, or encouraging me. Would I even ever tell anyone I was using SNAP (food stamp) benefits? As experiential as this challenge is, there is also a reality that it cannot bring me to.
Tuesday, Nov. 6
Election Day was more of a challenge than I anticipated, because I'm a recovering political junkie and I get a little nervous about the outcome. I was able to stay pretty close to the budget on Tuesday, avoiding the commercial outlets on campus, and splurging on a cheeseburger from Burger King for lunch ($1.39). The fact that I was not charged state sales tax on that take-out burger had new meaning, because it reduced the cost of my lunch by 6.5 percent. Over the course of a week, that could add up to a couple of meals. These small things that I barely noticed before take on new meaning, and help me to see what a person living off very little income might have to consider on a daily basis.
Monday, Nov. 5
I have been apprehensive all weekend about how the Falcon Hunger Challenge will change my daily activities. One persistent thought I've had is that doing the Challenge is "inconvenient" for me this week. It takes me just a moment to rein in that thought, and remind myself that being hungry is never something one plans for, and that it could happen to me under different circumstances. I look at food very differently now too. I calculated what I've eaten today not by quality or diversity, but by quantity and price. Three eggs for breakfast, I thought, would keep me full through lunch, and they did. Before I teach tonight, I'll have a banana or two, and then some of the soup I made this weekend. That and the pot of coffee that magically transforms me each morning into a decent human being comes to about $4 for the day. I can easily spend twice that amount on campus for one meal.
In theory, the first day is suggesting that the week will be doable. I have to remember, however, that most people who receive food assistance can't look forward to spending more money at the end of a single week, but that rationing food becomes an important part of their daily lives.
Sunday, Nov. 4
I've been thinking about how restricting the money I spend on food this week will affect me, what I do, who I'm with, and how I interact with people. If I'm tired and don't want to cook, can I afford to go to a restaurant? Will I be able to participate in the same activities when I have such a restricted budget for food? It's easy to spend $33 on one nice dinner, or spend the $33 in a day or two without thinking. Just last week, I spent almost $10 for coffee and pastries for myself and a friend. The Falcon Hunger Challenge is focusing my mind on things that I take for granted several times a day.