Food stamp diet: Day 7

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In the end, we coasted to the finish line with ease. So why do we still feel so much unease?

When we started the food stamp diet experiment last weekend, Jenn, who is a genius, banked the leftover $3-and-change from our initial budget. We we’re saving it up for the home stretch, when our greatest need would present itself.

We were pretty sure it would be either tea or cheese.

It turned out to be calories.

She surprised me last night with a Jell-O brand coconut cream pie, and I’ve never enjoyed such a thing quite like this before.

Her: I can’t believe I bought this.

Me: I can’t believe how delicious this is!

Today’s food was:

  • Grits — sans egg, as we only had one dozen, but con queso. There was a small wedge of cheddar left that we melted in. So, score!
  • Leftover spaghetti with that acid-rific Hunt’s spaghetti sauce.
  • Hoppin’ john (for the last damn time) — and then another slice of that there pie.

So it’s over, and tomorrow will probably see me engaging in an orgy with scones, coffee, hamburgers and beer. Pretty much in that order. (Wait. Is there order to an orgy?)

Call it kismet, fate, Providence, whatever, but there’s a lot of stuff that bubbled up around this issue this week — and we had no idea heading into it.

We didn’t know, for instance, that the House of Representatives was edging in on a vote to reduce funding of food stamp programs by almost $40 billion. (I don’t want to launch a political debate, but it’s clear to me that existing funding isn’t enough. God help the people trying to eat on less. Does this mean reform is needed? Maybe. This nation is all abuzz about health care reform, but I tend to think starvation is a bigger issue.)

We didn’t know that the United Way in Terre Haute, Ind., was running a similar Hunger Challenge the same week as our experiment. Those lucky bastards get $4.53 a day.

And we didn’t know the CEO of Panera Bread, Ron Shaich, was going to one-up us by doing it for a whole month. (Kind of reminds me of the time I came to a Halloween party sporting a bald wig for my Sinead O’Connor costume, only to see a co-worker had actually shaved his head for his get-up. His was a move of solidarity for his kid, who had to shave his dome for a procedure. Still, showoff.)

I can’t tell you why this all happened at the same time. I can only tell you we picked our week based on when there was a break in our CSA subscription. Our farmers, by the way, take SNAP right now, although they’re about to have to drop it since it costs money to rent the machine to process the transactions. They got a grant to pay for that, but no one has used SNAP money to buy from the CSA.

Jenn and I have gotten no nearer to concocting some big-picture solution, but I guess we didn’t expect to. We have, however, learned a hell of a lot about how hard it is to be really hungry. And we had the luxury of knowing our hard times would be over if we could just stick it out a week.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the Senate as they (strike down!) carefully look at (strike down!) their version of the food stamp bill (strike down!). And we’ll judge people less when we see the kind of crap they’re spending their SNAP money on next time, because we’ve had the tiniest, safest glimpse at their desperate times and desperate measures.

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