#SNAPchallenge2013: Takeaway Week, Day 5

Still trying to find a way to wrap up this past month eloquently, and have no idea how I’m going to put it all together. In the meantime, I’ll continue to post tidbits as they come to me. Please feel free to challenge me on my opinion of their eloquence 🙂

Takeaway #5: Food-Free Fun Time!

I want to work my way through this list. You with me?

When you want to catch up with a friend or a colleague, what’s your default offer? “Let’s go to dinner!” “Let’s grab coffee!” Or, my personal all-time favorite, “Let’s go to brunch!” But in the absence of those opportunities for the month, particularly with momentum rising from conference interactions the month before, what was I to do when asked to go eat with someone?

I have to say, beyond any hunger I felt over the course of this experience, my biggest fear was an appearance of being antisocial. Despite the rising profile of government assistance and its increasingly common nature, it still places its users under a tremendous level of scrutiny and judgement. In fact, as I explained to a friend more about the challenge, she blamed such a culture for the often reported “food stamp fraud”.

While I haven’t spoken about it during my coverage of this challenge, it is known that some users of SNAP assistance sell their benefits and use the money on other, non-SNAP approved items, or even non-food items. Based on her knowledge of friends and significant others whose families depended on these benefits, she saw a culture that emphasizes the newest, best thing as essential to being perceived as successful as a major factor in misuse of these benefits. I admittedly am not qualified to assess how often that happens or what the causes are, but I can say that I understand the stigma that she referenced.

But after some initial discomfort, I seized this opportunity to take advantage of some opportunities I hadn’t before. In the absence of a default option, I got creative. I bowled with work friends, found free days to go to museums, went window shopping, encouraged bringing of lunches to meetings, and many other out-of-the-box hangouts. As I spoke with friends who didn’t always have secure food growing up, a common thread emerged: in order to give them a good experience, their parents got creative. I followed that lead. And frankly, I want to keep doing that. When I think about some of my best memories over the past several years, some happened at tables. But more of them happened out in the world, when I did something out of the ordinary. I want to keep creating those memories. And challenging myself to do something more adventurous than just share a meal, even if its cooking a meal together or using a coupon to take an adventure on the cheap, will do so many things to help me appreciate the plight of those who don’t have that “let’s grab a bite!” option.

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 🙂
http://www.crowdrise.com/SNAPchallenge0113/  

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