From November 17 through November 24, our director, Laura, participated in the SNAP Challenge as part of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. We posted at the beginning of the challenge and mid-way through about her progress. Now that she’s wrapped up the challenge, here are her final thoughts.
I completed the SNAP challenge yesterday after a full week of cooking for two on $64. We wound up a bit under budget on Friday, so I picked up $2 of sausage to add to the strata (an egg and cheese casserole that’s one of my favorite ways to stretch food) I made for dinner.
This week, I’m looking forward to visiting my extended family for Thanksgiving with a newfound sense of gratefulness for the food. To give you a sense of how Italian our Thanksgiving is, the eggplant parmigiana plays just as central of a role on the table as the turkey. In general during the SNAP challenge, I really enjoyed going back to my Italian roots by making bread, pizza, gnocchi and strata, as it made me feel connected to those roots and remember how important it is to have a food culture when dealing with such a limited budget.
I think it would be incredibly naïve of me to say that now I understand what someone living on food stamps is experiencing. Yes, it was hard for me to give up many things. But at the same time, I managed to cook many satisfying and balanced meals on this budget, thanks in large part to the fact that I have a fully equipped kitchen, and that’s not really fair. I read an article recently by someone actually living day-to-day on this type of budget that pointed out a microwave and a dorm-sized fridge is often all that’s available. The article also noted that cooking takes time, more time than people often have, and carries the risk of messing up and going without a meal. I know I was worried about that on gnocchi night.
But at the same time, I still think it’s a valuable idea to keep encouraging people to find their food cultures and traditions and cook healthy food, no matter where they’re starting from. Food has the power to change lives. Food brings people together, around our tables and in our communities. I came away from the challenge inspired about the work that we do here every day at The Campus Kitchens Project, and at each one of our locations across the country.