Stewardship of Life


SNAP to it Food Stamp Challenge–Day 29

Food Stamp Fatigue Edition

One more day and the SNAP to it Food Stamp Challenge will be history. Well, it will be history for those lucky folks for whom this is only an educational challenge and not a daily reality and way of life. Among my blogging friends who have participated in the June Food Stamp Challenge the conversational tone has ranged from energetic and creative to ranting and grumbling. Most of us have found ourselves focusing on food way too much, and some of our family members have been at least mildly resentful of the limits placed on the fridge and pantry for the month of June.

I do think that all of the participants whose blog entries I have read at least recognize our location of privilege. Even on a SNAP budget we have far, far more than most of the world’s population has in terms of a food budget and access to a variety of healthy food and clean, plentiful water. When I have told people about what the SNAP budget is (at least as far as the national average goes) several have commented that they could live quite well on that amount. Some of them live well on significantly less. That fact is a humbling one for me. How dare I complain about having more than $200 a month to spend on food (for two people) when the average person in this world only earns $7880 a year (click here for more information). Even this figure is misleading, because according to the World Resources Institute, the world’s rural poor live on around 77 cents a day or $255.50 a year. That makes me seem very wealthy, even though currently as a single parent of two children (who receives no child support) I live month-to-month and sometimes struggle to pay the bills. I am blessed. I am beyond fortunate.

This morning I was talking with our parish nurse about the difficulties families face and the enormous need that people in social service vocations see and deal with each day. There is a high level of burnout and emotional fatigue that comes with working in these jobs, and one of the things she sees is a disturbing desensitization and depersonalization that appears necessary to survive. She talked about a former pastor’s spouse who worked with SNAP clients. The woman had finally quit because it disturbed her to see the lack of respect with which these clients were treated and the thick hides and cynicism that seemed necessary for many of the employees to survive in the difficult environment. Even though the conversation we had troubled me a great deal, I can understand how this might happen. Conversely, I can understand how those trapped in chronic poverty come to behave in certain ways that are expected and that “work” to meet needs, regardless of how unhealthy these patterns may be.

I’d be willing to bet that some readers are pretty tired of hearing about our paltry pantries and food stamp rants. If so, take heart, tomorrow is the last entry. That said, I do hope that our efforts have at least made you consider the co-mingled subjects of poverty and hunger in a little different light. I hope we will all endeavor to see our neighbor as a person worthy of respect and relationship.

Remember, we may not have a clue what our neighbor is facing. Perhaps the young couple that looks so normal is only a few dollars away from living in their car which is only one payment away from being repossessed. That genteel elderly woman may be making the difficult choice between medicine and food or even paying her electric bill. The business professional down the street, who is now into “consulting,” may be wearing Gucci loafers and a Hermes tie, but he may also be about to lose his car, his house, and his family after being let go from his job 18 months ago. These people may not have an EBT card in their wallet (yet), but need is there nonetheless. The best way to avoid fatigue is to seek to see the person and not the stereotype or the condition. Maybe we all need to grab our cardigan sweaters, step out the front door, and start humming “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

State of the Pantry

Breakfast was oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts. Lunch was black bean and tomato cornbread and cherries with a cookie for dessert. Snack was an apple. Supper was leftover chicken enchilada casserole and veggies. Let’s hear it for leftovers! Yahoo! The dear daughter ate the two leftover hamburgers and drank a lot of tea. She’ll probably eat the rest of the enchiladas for late night snack.

Websites of the Day

I mentioned a couple of these websites in the text above, but do take time to visit these four sites. If you don’t feel rich after reading these reports/articles, well, all I can say is that you should.

Click here to visit the World Resources Institute website and read “Global Average Income of the Rural Poor.”

The Boston Globe world news website reports on “Average Income Worldwide” in 2007. Click here to visit the site.

Click here to visit the UC Atlas of Global Inequality and read about “Income Inequality.”

Finally, be sure to visit The Physics Factbook, edited by Glenn Elert and written by his students. Click here to read about “Income of the Average Person on Earth.”

Photo Credits: Sharron Lucas, Rikynti Marwein, Aoife city womanchile, and Filipe Moreira through a Creative Commons License. Thanks!

SNAP to it Food Stamp Challenge–Day 24

Posted in Just Living by Sharron R. Lucas on June 24, 2010
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Persist

I’ve been thinking way too much about food over the last 24 days. My pantry has been analyzed more thoroughly than ever before. I’ve questioned my shopping skills, I’ve second-guessed my decisions, and I’ve done well some days and poorly on other days. I’m still ahead of the game—barely—but there are still six more days of June and a hungry teenager in the house.

Don’t get me wrong…there is plenty of food to be had in the fridge and pantry. The Lucas women will finish the month with ample food to spare and full bellies. We are among the lucky ones. My daughter will not go to bed hungry tonight unless she chooses to do so. Granted she would much rather have sushi from Green Life than leftover pasta or, perish the thought, beans and rice with salsa. I would love to have a box of store-brand Triscuit crackers and cheddar cheese on which to snack, but I’m not going to cave in. Technically, even though our budget is uber tight for the rest of the month, I could make it happen. I can provide, even if it means taking a few books to the used bookstore. Options are there.

Yet, we persist. We will see this SNAP Challenge through until the end of June. If I’m counting SNAP pennies on day 30, then it is a good lesson and reminder of how close to the margin we really live. Without family and friends, I am now just a month or two away from financial disaster thanks to the move and job search. I could be in this position FOR REAL. Thankfully, I will begin a new ministry position on July 1, and I start teaching English as an adjunct instructor in September, so we should be alright; we will persist and thrive where we have been planted.

I will persist in learning and growing. I am not a coupon maven—with just the two of us I’ve never seen the point. Now I am reconsidering after a conversation today with a woman who has couponing down to a fine art. With just a little effort, I should be able to save more AND give more, too. I need to learn to do a little more planning upfront to maximize my shopping dollar and learn how to combine trips and determine when a deal is really a deal in terms of time, gas, and cash.

Today I saw this tiny plant growing out of a crack in the retaining wall near my apartment. It’s a tiny tree, determined to live in spite of impossible obstacles. This little plant is a fitting metaphor for so many people who face daunting odds each day yet who somehow manage not just to survive but to thrive and do their part to make this world a better place.

Like this little plant, I want to grow against all odds, to stretch my arms toward the sun and blossom so that one day I can provide shade and a place to rest for the weary, produce fruit, and sow seeds for the future. Whether I ever become that mighty oak I haven’t a clue. That’s not what really matters; no, the important thing is to live each day with gratitude, purpose, and grace.

Thank you SNAP Challenge, thank you for teaching and inspiring me to reach beyond my comfort zone. Oh, yeah…only six more days. We can do this. How about it?

State of the Pantry

I bought a 99 cent cup of organic, fair trade coffee at Green Life this morning, using my own travel mug, and a few strawberries for a $1.18 as part of an interview. My daughter had asked me to bring home sushi, but I declined given the state of our SNAP budget and knowing that she may want milk or orange juice before the 30 days are up. She was fine with that and fixed herself a batch of pancakes for brunch. I had cereal and milk for brunch, peanut butter and a Dove chocolate for snack, black beans, brown rice, and tomato for lunch. Supper was angel hair pasta with vodka sauce and the last of the melon.

Website of the Day

Check out one of my fellow compactor’s blogs by clicking here. She has a great essay today entitled “The Beauty Standard of Food Privilege” that is part of her reporting on the June Food Stamp Challenge.

SNAP to it Challenge–Day 14

Posted in Just Living by Sharron R. Lucas on June 14, 2010
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Counting Blessings Edition

“Don’t sleep counting sheep. Count blessings, then sleep.” These are the words printed on the tea bag tag that I had planned to use for tomorrow’s Facebook “Teabag Tuesday” entry, but they also hit the spot for day 14 of the SNAP to it Challenge. Tomorrow will be day 15 or halfway through the month. I thought this was going to be a difficult task—and it may very well yet take on that flavor—but for now what I’m learning is how many blessings I have to count.

I’m pretty tired thanks to a meeting and a job interview this morning, lunch out, an afternoon spent at the Hunter Museum of American Art, followed by a walk through the Bluffview Arts District, and preparing a birthday supper, so I am ready to count blessings and catch a few z’s.

Here goes:

  1. I am blessed to have a very nice, spacious place to live (with air conditioning!).
  2. I am blessed to have family and friends to love and who love me.
  3. I am blessed to have a good church home and the freedom to worship there.
  4. I am blessed to a reliable, gas efficient car.
  5. I am blessed to have plenty of clothes for most any occasion.
  6. I am blessed to have opportunities to be creative in my vocational pursuits and to earn a living doing things I enjoy.
  7. I am blessed to have lots of good food—an abundance, more than plenty.
  8. I am blessed to live in a location where there are many places to shop for food and several farmers’ markets and stands. I do not live in one of the food deserts found across the United States.
  9. I am blessed to have pets that enrich my life and provide examples of unconditional love.
  10. I am blessed to have an education and opportunities to continue to enrich my mind.
  11. I am blessed to have a computer and Internet access that opens a world of possibilities and experiences.
  12. I am blessed to be able to see, hear, walk, run, smell, and touch—senses that enable me to appreciate this beautiful earth and good creation.

Yes, I am blessed, and I could certainly keep counting; however my eyelids are heavy and sleep is not far away. I hope you will take time to give thanks for the many blessings in your life and to share some of those blessings with others.

Night, ya’ll! Sleep well.

State of the Pantry

Today I had yogurt and tea for breakfast, a wonderful meal of barbeque, collards, sweet potato casserole and a corn muffin at Sticky Fingers, and a supper of roast beef (cooked all day in the slow cooker), stuffed mashed potatoes (with cheese, green onion, butter and sour cream), green beans, artisan bread, and cherry cobbler with ice cream. I bought a bunch of green onions that set me back $1.28, and was gifted the bread, some artisan raisin bread, and lunch. The balance of my SNAP funds is now $28.47.

Website of the Day

As long as we’re talking about counting blessings, be sure to check out this brief article discussing research that says practicing gratitude can increase happiness by 25%. Click here to visit psyblog and read about Dr. Robert A. Emmons’ study.

Photographs used through Creative Commons Licensing.