As a staff member at Carpenter’s we stare poverty in the face every day, but few of us actually know what it feels like to experience poverty first hand. Last week, one of the staff members brought up the SNAP challenge. In a world of too much, two of our senior staff members decided to step up and take the challenge.

Yesterday was the first day of the SNAP Challenge for Executive Director Lissette and her family as well as Director of Development Kelly and her husband. What have they learned so far? In her own words,Lissette shares an important lesson her family learned after their first day on the SNAP Challenge, it’s not fair!

Last week a staff member heard that The Women’s Foundation staff was participating in the Food Stamp Challenge. An exercise organized by D.C. Hunger Solutions, the challenge aims to educate the public and raise awareness of the benefits of food stamps and the challenges recipients face while eating on a very limited budget.

The concept caught on at Carpenter’s – this week we’re taking the challenge! It didn’t take but two minutes for me to commit my entire family to the exercise. I thought of the budgeting lessons my children would learn at the grocery store. The discussions at the dinner table and the bigger lesson we would all learn. Cooking healthy and diabetic friendly would add a twist to my test. Bring it on!

The reaction at home? Not exactly the same enthusiasm I brought to the project.

My husband had a lot of questions. Primarily, he was looking to find the loop holes in the challenge. “What about when there is a vendor sponsored lunch at work?” “What about if I have a lunch meeting?” “What about the food we purchased last week that’s going to go bad?”

My kids learned they would have to eat breakfast and lunch at school all week. If we were receiving SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the official name for food stamps), my children would qualify for free or reduced lunch at school.

“Oh no, that’s terrible! The food at school is gross!” My daughter added the colorful, “School food makes me have bad poops, yuk!”

I was not going to be swayed. I had committed us and we were all in it together. Here’s a peek into my food stamp world dialogue:.

Day 1 – Scene 1 – Conversations from the aisles of Giant
  • “Oh so, this is like a puzzle?” I like puzzles.”
  • “Seriously, we can only get Daddy’s granola bars? That’s not fair!”
  • “No snack food or dessert! That’s not fair!”
  • “Oh my God, Mom – We did it! We got all that food for $116! Can I keep the calculator?”

Day1 – Scene 2 – A Play by Play…It’s all about the food
Monday morning – I prepare my husband’s lunch, the kids are eating at school, I’m already running late… just coffee for breakfast and a very poorly thought out lunch – some lunch meat and crackers. By 11 a.m. I’m ready to chew my arm off.

In the car, driving away from the school – “We’re starving, what’s for dinner? Is there anything that we can snack on before dinner?”

While I’m cooking dinner – “Mom, we get it. We’re hungry. We have more than most. Do we really have to do this all week?”

An hour after dinner – “MOM!!! Daddy’s in the pantry! He’s cheating on the challenge!” Just before bed – “What? We didn’t get plums? I always have a plum before bed? It’s a fruit! It’s healthy! This is so NOT Fair!”

Tuesday morning – “Mom? I had a banana before dinner last night… and if I have one now before school, there will only be three bananas left. That’s not going to be enough for all week, right?…. I guess I can have half and make it last longer.”

There you have it – 24 hours. It is ALL about the food and it is NOT FAIR.