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Taking the SNAP challenge? No, thank you.

I recount my personal experience as a SNAP recipient, and explain why I don't want to take the SNAP challenge now and relive my experience.

/Holly Bechiri

My old Bridge card. (SNAP CARD)

My old Bridge card. (SNAP CARD) /Chris Freeman

/Courtesy of Feeding America West Michigan

This year, I was considering taking the SNAP challenge. This is where you only spend $4.50 per day for all of your food for the day, which is the same amount that people who use SNAP (Food Stamps) have to spend for their meals daily. As quickly as I considered doing it, I decided against it. Why, you might ask?

My family and I have been SNAP recipients in the past.

Now, here is the irony and stigma in that statement. As I write this article, I find myself feeling a little ashamed to admit that I needed food assistance in the past. I feel that people are now looking at me and thinking less of me, but I have a thick skin so I will persevere.

The first thing about using SNAP that is undesirable is that you can make no impulse purchases and still keep on the food budget. You have to plan where every dollar goes, because it will not be enough to get you through the whole month even with the best planning. Part of this planning involves shopping at the largest local food chain because you cannot beat their price points, but it also means that you have to buy as many sale items as you can. This will help you extend your limited budget.

So you want fresh fruits and vegetable? Meat, maybe? No! You will buy processed meats and vegetables because they are cheaper and will help you stretch your budget. They are also the worst things for your body. You will also buy multiples of these same items because the sale price is so good that you can get more of these of these items. It doesn’t matter if it is healthy or not, you are just trying to stave off the pains of hunger.

As you are just trying to keep your stomach full, you are also slowly atrophying as you are fueling your body with processed junk. You are getting fatter because the food that you are now eating causes this to occur. This propagates the thought to the casual observer, that you are “fat and lazy” and probably just using the system.

Now you are getting to the end of the month and the food is gone. You now have to try to fill the void by getting help from a food pantry.

Although well intentioned, food pantries are filled with the same processed foods that you are already torturing your body with, and now you are at a place where you don’t get to even choose what you get. They have what they have, and you take it, whether you like it or not. You take it whether you are allergic or not (I, for example, have mild allergies).

Have you even been at the end of a month and had no money left for food? I have. Not eating for the last four days of your SNAP calendar month really gives you an appreciation for how hard it is to work on an empty stomach.

Did I say work? Yes, I was working while receiving SNAP. The income from my job still left me below the poverty level. It’s tough when you are having those hunger pains and having to work with people who get to go out to lunch or just were fortunate enough to have food at home that they could pack for lunch. Things like bread, things that you take for granted, have an amazing smell when you haven’t eaten in several days.

So, I have the opportunity to do it all again. For one week, I can relive the past. I realize that I am being selfish, but this is a past that I am not interested in experiencing again.

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