Our Spiritual Center runs a community outreach project every month to support organizations in the Triangle NC area that are making the world a better place. For May, June, and July, the Youth & Teen Ministry, of which I am a part, are sponsoring the events, organized under the umbrella title of our TCSL Summer of Compassionate Service.
In May, we collected toiletries to go into backpacks of necessities to be distributed to the homeless in downtown Raleight. In June, some of my students in a band put on a benefit concert with all proceeds going to A Place at the Table, a pay-what-you-can restaurant in Raleight where people can order a delicious and healthy meal regardless of their ability to pay for their food. This month we are also running a collections drive on behalf of Dorcas Ministries. Dorcas Ministries administers a scholarship program that allows low-income students to attend summer camps that they could not otherwise afford. Our Center is collecting supplies that keep summer camp attendees safe and healthy–things like sunscreen, bug spray, bandages and antiseptic cream, etc. A group of us also volunteered at Dorcas last Saturday, helping out in the thrift store that brings in money to fund the many community programs that Dorcas offers. Then in July, we will be running a food drive to fill the food pantry at Urban Ministries.
Over the three months, we are also inviting families to take on an individual project. We are encouraging people to participate in what is known as the SNAP Challenge. In the SNAP Challenge, individuals and/or households experience what it is like for low-income people to meet their food needs by living for one week spending ONLY the amount of money provided by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, generally know as food stamps) on their meals. How does it feel to spend only about $6 per person per day on your food for a week? The SNAP Challenge is designed to help you answer that question from your own experience.
For our Center, we are doing this for two reasons. One is to raise our compassion for the many in our community who struggle to pay for their food on a daily basis. In 2018, over 1.3 million people in North Carolina alone relied on SNAP to buy their food. By trying to live on such a stringent budget, even for just a week, it gives us a chance “to walk in the shoes,” as it were, of the less fortunate. We believe having this experience will heighten our compassion around this issue.
Secondly, we believe that our thoughts can change things, not just for ourselves, but for others as well. Therefore, we are going to try to keep an attitude of gratitude and abundance even as we live on this restricted food budget in hopes that will alleviate the hopelessness that many can feel when they must rely on federal food aid.
It felt like the start of summer was a good time to take on the Challenge. So yesterday, my son and I bought the majority of our food for the week, starting tomorrow. To give you an idea of what we bought, I’ve attached the photos below:
This leaves us with under $10 to spend tomorrow at our local Farmer’s Market on fresh vegetables and bread. I usually buy most of my vegetables there, but they are more expensive (non-certified organic, fresher and healthier than the store-bought ones) and so I had to buy conventional produce at the store to stay within my budget.
I will be sharing the specifics of our allotment and how we spent it in future posts. I will also be sharing our tips and our experience as we go along the week.
I also want to say that I know this is a more-privileged person’s version of a weekly struggle for all too many. I will be discussing that more in a future post, including what makes things much tougher for low-income families. However, I think it will raise my consciousness around my food and certainly make me even more appreciative of things it is easy for me to take for granted. Furthermore, per the suggestion of the SNAP Challenge organizers, I will be donating all the money I’m saving on groceries this week to the Urban Ministries food pantry drive next month.
After we finished shopping, I was feeling really good about our meals for the week. I think we are going to be well fed. I think we’ll have enough food for the week as long as we are careful and deliberate about our eating.
We start tomorrow, so stay tuned!