You know, like many people, I live on a budget. It’s split between rent, books, food, concerts, clothes, etc. Most of the time, I’m pretty good about staying within my budget and not spending too much. I checked my bank accounts yesterday though for a pretty big surprise. Ten days into the month and I’d already blown over half of my budget. WHAT THE HECK!
As it turns out, I spent a solid chunk of it on transportation. I’ve been using this new Car2Go service in Seattle that lets you rent out these tiny Smart cars for the length of time you’re driving. So, alright, I used my money on cars. Not much helping that. The rest of it, though, was still pretty hefty. There weren’t any mischarges, everything looked right. It was just $20 here and there.
Apparently, my “here and there” is really just one thing: food. Nearly all of my expenses were on food! Eating out, getting groceries, eating out some more. And the transportation stuff? Yeah, that was to get food. How in the world do I eat so much???
One of my nutrition classes had an assignment in which we had to create a meal plan for a day that cost under $6, the federal guidelines for food stamps and such. I made my plan, all nice and whatnot, with grains and vegetables and fruit and proteins. I was able to hit all of my nutritional requirements by eating oatmeal (with pb and a banana!), a turkey sandwich with salad, and brown rice with garlic spinach. I even fit in an apple and some yogurt as a snack. My plan looked pretty darn tasty. I thought about actually sticking myself to a $6 food budget every day. It’d certainly keep my costs down.
But then the next day I went to Manhattan in Capital Hill and had a three-course meal for $15.
Mmmm, king crab bisque with a parmesan crisp, fried chicken and waffles, and an earl grey crème brulee. It was so delicious, I just wanted to stay there for as long as could. Maybe they’d give me more crème brulee if I stayed there long enough pretending I never got dessert…
I know that the people who have to limit themselves to $6/day don’t do it by choice. I certainly wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It completely deprives people of that joy of eating and trying new foods! And trying to figure out what I could and couldn’t eat to fit the budget took so much time it was like I was a cavewoman scouring the Great Grocery Plains to hunt down the cheapest wheat bread. Over time, I can see it become a chore of sustainment and a stressor of getting food on the table. As it so happens, a quarter of Washington kids live in a household that has trouble putting food on the table. As stressful as it is to try and feed oneself, imagine that multiplied by 2 kids who can’t focus in school because they’re hungry! I’m imagining one of my friends who turns into the Grinch as soon as he gets hungry. I bet he’d trip a kid to get their granola bar. Then imagining that multiplied by several hungry kids… no wonder it seems that kids from underprivileged households seem so mean!
A lot of the families who need help don’t stay in that situation for long. Most just need help for a couple of months, during rough transitions and such, before getting back on their feet. I mean, who likes to have to live off of charity? An event I’m currently planning tries to bring awareness to that very issue, by raising money to benefit NW Harvest, a local food bank network. They serve 1.7 million meals each month, and thousands of families in need without asking for documentation of need for assistance. That’s something I love about NW Harvest: they’ll help everyone who needs it, they don’t need proof of it.
I love food, and I like to joke that my entire day revolves around food. But that’s voluntary. I wouldn’t want to be stuck to it. I want to enjoy my food, and I want others to be excited about their food—not stressed. That’s what this gala is about—giving people the chance to put food concerns aside in their times of need. Everybody has a budget. Mine would gladly include a donation to NW Harvest.
Want info on the event? Visit endhungergala.wix.com/home (it won’t work without the slash-home part)