by Joe Thomas

Food Justice

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to undertake what has come to be known as the SNAP Challenge. The SNAP Challenge has recently seen an increase in publicity due to the efforts of Newark, N.J. mayor Cory Booker, as well as other celebrities trying to raise awareness of food justice and nutrition issues in the United States. In it, participants voluntarily restrict themselves to the weekly budget determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. In simpler terms, you simulate living off food stamps for a week.

There are a few reasons I want to do this. From time to time I find myself losing perspective on the issues facing some of the people who live near me, folks for whom an extra few dollars really does make the difference between eating that day or not. Obviously, a week of eating for about four dollars a day wont accurately portray the long term mental and physical effects of a lack of adequate nutrition, but I hope it will help me understand to some extent what people go through. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how hard it is to eat healthily when you have little to no money for food. There are some organizations that are trying to change this, like Wholesome Wave’s efforts to double food stamp values at farmer’s markets. One reason I stopped being a vegetarian several years ago (in addition to the fact that I really, really like meat) was that it was very difficult on a strict budget. Finally, I think an important part of the Thanksgiving/Christmas/Holiday season is being thankful for the good things in life, and remembering those who struggle to make ends meet.

So here’s my plan:

For the next week I’m going to do a lot of reading. I’m going to do some background research on the history of the food stamp program, various efforts to provide healthy options for those receiving SNAP funding, and budgeting my week. I’ll be writing about some of this reading over the next few days. I’ll start the challenge on Monday, December 17th, and finish on Christmas Eve. Throughout that week, I’ll write about my experiences, post my meals for the day, and answer any questions folks might have. If you or anyone you know has already done this, I’d love to hear about that experience, and if you’re inclined, feel free to join me in this effort. Hopefully this Christmas, while I’m enjoying my family’s annual massive brunch, I’ll be doing it with a more open mind and thankful heart.