The final day of the Food Assistance Challenge, I began a road trip to visit my family and friends in Minnesota. From the food I had left, I packed an egg salad sandwich, a chicken salad sandwich, a baggie of carrot sticks and spent my last $2 on a dried papaya instead of opting for coffee. I had 11-12 hours to drive the first day but I knew the end of my experience was a few hours away. And honestly, I couldn’t wait.
The week – one short week – gave me so much time to reflect and obsess on food, lack of food and everything else eating and drinking on $22.50 meant in my life. The food I was able to eat kept me fed, but it didn’t provide the energy I needed to train at the level I needed. I skipped two morning training bike rides out of lack of energy. I didn’t go hungry, but there were meals and days I didn’t want to eat because with the few ingredients I had, everything tasted the same. Whether it was the chicken and veggie soup, the chicken and veggie salad, the chicken and veggie fried rice, the chicken salad sandwich – I couldn’t enjoy it. As awful as it sounds to me to say this – knowing at least there was food – the monotony was almost unbearable. I am lucky enough to get to enjoy my food, not just subsist on it. My friend Jamilia responded to that comment in this way, “So many of us take it for granted when we open the fridge, do not see anything that looks good at the moment and complain that we have nothing to eat. Some folks really do not have anything to eat.”
I am also fortunate to have the means to be social, to meet friends for coffee, lunch, dinner or beer, something that hit me hard this week as I tried to figure out what to do at home, alone with no money to go out. My friend Frances, who works in a school district where the majority of the students receive free or reduced lunches, noted this week when I turned down her offer to buy me a beer “I do think disparity between the fortunate and the less fortunate could be aided by inclusion…” The question is, of course, how?
I hope that what I’ve been able to share thru this experience with my friends, my family and my network has opened their eyes to what 1 in 7 of our community members experiences regularly. It certainly has mine. I will continue to help bring awareness to the problem of hunger in Southern Colorado and hope that we make progress on that number. Upon my return to Colorado from vacation, I will donate the difference of my average week grocery budget to Care & Share Food Bank as the tiniest gesture I can make to move the solution in the right direction.
This week has made me more aware of the value of a dollar – of $22.50 – and how far some of our local families have to stretch it and how far it doesn’t stretch… And what they must go without in order to just put some sort of food on the table.