Two of my coworkers in residence life and I have started what I’ve been referring to as a supper club on Wednesday nights. I love it for the ability to build relationships with other coworkers, and for the chance to test new recipes with friends. But potlucks present a challenge when you’re on a set budget, and as I expected it had some difficulty.

To start with, I forgot about it during my weekly shopping trip. I had some money left over, but a difficult amount of money. $2.99, to be exact.

Under normal circumstances, I would either dip into the pantry and whip up something with what was on hand, or go out to the store and pick up any number of ingredients to pull something together. But in keeping with authenticity with this whole project, I did neither of those things. 

So what was left? Find something that was within my admittedly limited means.  I searched high and low on Pinterest for recipes that incorporated inexpensive ingredients with what I had in the pantry, but came up short. What was I left with? Getting Jell-O chocolate mousse pudding. A product I’ve been wanting to try, but hadn’t brought into the house because it qualifies as a junk food that I had been trying not to buy. 

In that moment, a lot of struggles became clearer than at any other point during the month. To the mom or dad that ends up bringing home blue box mac and cheese and chips over fresh fruits and vegetables, it may not be a matter of not knowing any better (Although it may be). Maybe, just maybe, there isn’t the freedom of choice that we always assume there is. I felt that pressure of not being able to do what I wanted to do, or making my lifestyle fit within the confines of the challenge. I felt equal pressure to ensure that I could contribute to the dinner, not wanting to come empty handed because I “couldn’t afford it”. The pressure of the situation isn’t just financial, but social as well. I made it work in a way that I wouldn’t have normally, and that was difficult for me. But as I’ve said through this challenge- I like that it was difficult, because the difficulty is real.
There’s a quote from the book (and later movie) Into the Wild: “Happiness is only real when shared.” Similarly, the real challenge of SNAP comes when people other than yourself are being considered.
Moving forward, as I continue to plan to feed myself, I plan to think more about those who use their benefits to feed themselves and others. That’s the reality of so many people, and my challenge admittedly excludes that in large part.

I’m doing this in hopes to raise awareness about food instability, and money for the Greater Boston Food Bank. Should you feel compelled to give to the latter, please click the link below! I thank you, as will those who benefit from the money that you give 🙂 

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