Last week, over 30 Food Bank staff and community members took the FNS Challenge and ate only $4.06 worth of food each day in order to get a sense of what life is like for thousands of people that receive FNS benefits in our region. Read below to hear about Larry’s experience and lessons learned as well as final thoughts from other local participants.
My first FNS Challenge: Rewarding and Eye-Opening
By Larry Morris, Senior Manager, Agency Services
Monday was the hardest day by far. Even though I don’t normally eat much between meals, the very fact that I couldn’t snack at all without breaking my budget was extremely difficult to accept. I thought about food much more than usual and even talked about food with a colleague that was also participating in the FNS challenge. I don’t know why we tortured each other like that! But the irony didn’t go unnoticed. Already on day one I felt my restricted food budget alter my habits, my thoughts, and my preoccupations throughout the day.
Wednesday through Friday I felt a renewed sense of determination to stick to my meal plan. However, even with good intentions, I ended up going over $4.06 on each of those days. Luckily on Monday I was far under my budget ($2.47 for the entire day), so my average spending for each day ended up totaling $3.94, keeping me under the week’s budget.
Even as a veteran staff member at the Food Bank, I learned a lot from my experience. Protein is expensive. I already knew this, but when you sit down and calculate the cost of ingredients for each prepared dish, that fact really hits home. I also learned that my diet ended up being a bit carbohydrate heavy and lacked a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. I did have some frozen vegetables, and lots of tomatoes from my garden though. I ate grape tomatoes as snacks a couple of days, and larger tomatoes with some salt and pepper for a snack one evening. On the last day of the Challenge, I ate a tomato sandwich for dinner. It only cost me $.16 since the tomatoes were free. I’ve never loved my garden as much as I did during the Challenge. It really became a much-needed resource this week!
Although it may seem like a simple revelation, this Challenge also confirmed my belief that living on $4.06 per day would be hard. I know many people could probably predict that reaction, but actually taking the Challenge makes you think long and hard about the food choices that you make. I ate fairly well during the Challenge, but this was definitely not something that I could sustain for longer than five days and stay healthy and happy.
Finally, the Challenge made me think even more about the individuals and families who rely on FNS benefits to purchase food. At 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning, my life returned to normal and I could ease up my budget a bit. But families receiving FNS benefits do not have that luxury.
In the end I’m glad I participated in the Challenge. It has certainly strengthened my compassion for those we serve, and it has even started a dialogue within my own family. My 10-year-old daughter wants to give it a try for a day. I’m sure that experience will give me yet another perspective and a greater understanding of what so many fathers and daughters struggle with every day.
Larry was one of over 30 Food Bank staff and community members who took the FNS Challenge last week. Read below for more day five experiences and reflections from Challenge participants:
Thank you to all of this week’s Challenge participants. We appreciate your support and your voice. You’ve truly made a difference in the lives of our neighbors in need by helping us raise awareness of hunger in our communities. Thank you!
The week may be over, but you can take the Challenge any time. To learn more and sign up to live on just $4.06 of food a day, please visit our website: www.foodbankcenc.org/FNSChallenge.