Day 7 of the SNAP Hunger Challenge!

Monday, September 26, 2011

By Chef Terri

(Said with my best Strongbad impression) It's over!!!

This has been one heck of a long week. Today's menu was a little dull, consisting only of my PBJ breakfast and leftover mango, chicken, and black bean stew over rice.

Dinner...well, I made the mistake I always make when I tried to make fried rice. Allow my failures to be a lesson to you! When using leftover or frozen veggies to make fried rice, it is good to sautee them before you add the precooked rice (this is a great way to use up rice from leftover Chinese takeout, if you have it on hand). The part I always mess up is the part where you need to scramble the eggs on the side and THEN chop them up and add them to the rice. If you don't, and instead just dump the eggs on top of your delicious sauteed vegetables and rice, you end up with...gloppy, sad, mushy rice. I ate a little bit of it for dinner, but couldnt stomach more than I absolutely needed to in order to stop the hunger pangs.

I've been keeping detailled nutrition information for each day that I've been on the Hunger Challenge. Instead of boring you with every day's total, I've averaged the food consumed in the last 7 days and tried to give you a snapshot of what I've been eating vs what I "should" be eating. All of my numbers have come from, where they have a great recipe calculator and lots of relevant nutrition and fitness information (plus, it's free!). My goal numbers are listed in parentheses.
Calories:1568.8 (1730-2080)
Total Fat: 60.2g (44-70g)

Saturated Fat: 16.11g
Cholesterol: 343.1mg (less than 300mg)

Sodium: 2714.9mg (less than 2300mg)

Potassium: 2439.9mg
Total Carbohydrates: 192.8g (223-322g)

Fiber: 31.4g (20-30g)
Sugars: 28.7g
Protein: 77.9g

I fell short on my caloric goals, overshot my cholesterol and my sodium levels, but managed to get enough fiber and protein to help keep me going. My carbohydrates were also below where they should be, and I should be aiming to the lower end of the fat spectrum. However, the only reason I KNOW any of this information is because I have reliable access to a computer, knowledge of a website where I can gain this information, and education to understand what the numbers actually mean. Most Americans, whether or not they are on SNAP, don't have these sorts of luxuries. To compare, here is the caloric information for 2 McDoubles, 2 small french fries, and a large Coca-Cola from McDonalds. All of this information was located on their website. Again, my goals are in parentheses alongside.

Calories: 1560
Total Fat: 61g (44-70g)
Saturated Fat: 20g
Cholesterol: 130mg
(less than 300mg)
Sodium: 2180mg (less than 2300mg)
Total Carbohydrates: 209g (223-322g)
Sugars: 99g
Protein: 50g

It is pretty devastating to compare what I could have bought for approximately $5 a day to what I worked really hard on to feed myself for $5 a day. It is true that SNAP money does not work as currency at fast food restaurants, however, it does work at most convenience stores and dollar store sorts of establishments. This means that it is far easier to access cheap, minimally time consuming calories for my shopping dollar than it is to work so hard to get my needs met through a lengthy process in the kitchen. I cannot express how frustrating it is to know that, and to know that most people in this country don't know enough about basic nutrition to understand why the brown rice and beans keeps me feeling fuller for longer, even if it has the same calories as the large french fry.

At the end of all of this, I wonder what the purpose was. I know several friends of mine have been amazing and have given me tons of support, encouraging me to succeed when I could have easily cheated or fallen off of my task. But what else are we doing? Are we talking to the people we know and love about what they're eating? Are we doing so in a kind and compassionate manner?

How can you make a difference in someones life? I took this challenge to help broaden my understanding of the struggles people on SNAP face, and I never expected I would learn so much...but it isn't enough. I'm talking to people more about the food they're eating. I'm donating higher quality food to my local food pantry. I'm continuing to work with an organization that thinks it is of vital importance not just to provide food to the hungry, but to provide HEALTHY food to the hungry while we strive to end hunger in our community.

Go do something today. And tomorrow. And the next day. I'll be right there cheering you on.