Final Food Assistance Challenge thoughts from Julian Flores

I’m entering the final day of the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado‘s Food Assistance Challenge where I’ve been tasked to live off of $4.50 worth of food a day to raise awareness for food insecurity in our region.

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about this week (besides the couple of scotch whiskeys I’ve missed out on) is about the compounding nature of stress. I’ve been thinking about how stress can act exactly like a snowball and will compound and intensify as it grows.

Even though it’s only been a few days of this challenge, I can easily imagine the stress that food insecurity brings a hard-working family.

In my experience working with low-income families at Atlas prep, a stressful event can trigger an onslaught of further crisis. For example, I’ve seen a mom make the choice to take a sick child to the clinic in lieu of a shift at work meaning she literally lost income in order to care for her child. Loss of wages and a medical bill forced that mom to make tough choices elsewhere, not least of which impacted her ability to buy healthy food. And as stress compounded, it weakened her ability to deal with the crisis on an emotional level, something I know I take for granted.

While buying groceries for this challenge I caught a glimpse – albeit an asinine one – of just how easily stress can bubble up and change behaviors.

I went to Walmart armed with a budget of $22.50 for a week’s worth of food; my stress (and embarrassment) rose quickly each time I was forced to put back items I really needed but didn’t fit my budget. At about the 45-minute mark, after circling the aisles dozens of times crunching numbers and shuffling items in and out of my cart, my 4-year old stopped cooperating. I don’t remember what exactly he did to annoy me, but I barked at him to stop…publicly, and loudly. This is something I normally would have handled more maturely.

Here’s the troubling thing: I did exactly what I’ve seen so many stressed-out moms do, and previously judged them for. I cannot describe my embarrassment at this realization, and at how quickly I let stress in a completely artificial and temporary situation control me.

I certainly won’t be so quick to judge the person dealing with stress in this way the next time I see it.

This week leaves me wondering how on earth I’d be able to deal with compounding stress – be it from car or employment troubles, illness or housing crises.

Fortunately for me, I’ve never had to find out how’d I’d deal with the stress of it all.

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