Well folks, I’m wrapping up the SNAP the Silence challenge today. I almost made it to the end of the week keeping true to the challenge but I admit that I broke down last night after a rough day. I suspect many of us break our budgets, diets, or commitments when dealing with difficult situations. And that’s ok. What matters is what we do afterwards, either picking up where we left of or maybe starting over. For me, it’s important to share how grateful I am for the opportunity to participate in this challenge and to share what I learned along the way. Here’s my summary:
1. Planning your meals is key when living on a budget: I don’t just mean that Monday night is taco night and Tuesday is spaghetti night. The budgeting I’m describing includes what I can make with the limited money I have every day or week. This may result in every night being soup night or rice and beans night as whatever I make has to last several days.
2. Luxuries are truly luxuries: I never would have thought of a brownie as such but that is what did not make it into my budget. Though most of us could use the help in weaning ourselves of sweets, it would be a choice. Families with limited food budgets don’t have those same choices, making me realize the vast privileges I do have.
3. Healthy options are not always possible: I did not get to blog about this topic this week but it was one that struck me from the moment that I made my purchases for food on Monday. I was able to grab some healthy options that made my week not as bad as I originally expected but I certainly was not able to buy fresh vegetables either. Jenna Umbriac nutrition coordinator for Manna Food drove this home for me at the press conference Monday morning. She mentioned that they rarely get donations for fresh fruits and vegetables, let alone healthy donations of food. She then asked us to consider what we like to eat and feed our families with when making donations to a food pantry.
4. Lastly, education is crucial: I realize that most of us do not always come across people in need of assistance. We may hear about cases of need from the local paper or nonprofit but may not always get to experience the reality of it firsthand. I urge you to learn more, ask questions and find out what you can do to make a difference in your own community.
Thank you for joining me on this challenge as a reader and maybe even a participant. I hope you too can take the lessons I’ve shared to SNAP the Silence on poverty here in Montgomery County, MD.
Ana L. van Balen is the Mid-County Regional Services Director for Montgomery County, Md. Follow her on twitter at @anavanbalen or at Mid-County Director's Blog.