SNAP Challenge Begins to Take its Toll by CEO Bob Aiken

September 18, 2013

On Monday of this week I forgot my lunch at home. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except that I’m participating in the SNAP challenge this week, and to remain true to it, I could only eat what I’ve already purchased – my lunch back home.

So during lunch, I made the 40-minute drive home to pick up my meal. As I was driving however, I realized that I had the privilege of retrieving my forgotten lunch. For the millions on SNAP, this might not be the case. Forgetting their lunch might mean that they just won’t have food that day – they’ll have to go hungry instead.

Forgetting my lunch is just one of the obstacles I’ve faced participating in the SNAP challenge this week. I’ve also found it difficult to concentrate at work. I’m tired, hungry and have a caffeine headache – not to mention I’ve caught myself dreaming of coffee and all of my favorite foods more than once. I’ve always known food insecurity impacts your ability to work and learn – but I’ve never felt that reality in such a tangible way.

The fact that millions of kids experience this every day is particularly troubling. Not getting enough of the right types of food slows down my thinking and dampens my effectiveness at work – for kids, not getting enough to eat has even broader consequences as it impacts their development, ability to achieve in school and physical health throughout their life. I can’t imagine how it must feel to not be able to give your kids the food they need.

I’m half-way through my challenge, and while it’s given me insight into the plight of people living with food insecurity, I’m aware that it hasn’t truly placed me in their shoes. I’m doing this by choice, and only for a week. For millions of Americans, they are struggling for months – without the promise that a large steak and steaming cup of coffee will be waiting for them at the end of the road. If nothing else, this challenge is helping me not take for granted the food I have access to, and appreciate even more the importance of ending hunger in America.

If you would like to participate in the SNAP Challenge, find out more.

This post was also featured on The Huffington Post.


Posted by Emily Basten on September 18, 2013 at 3:58 PM in Our Leaders
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I am interested in learning what food you purchased at the beginning of the week. Choosing the foods must have been difficult. I am co-director of a food bank in Pa.

Posted by Bonnie Scarborough | September 18, 2013 at 9:01 PM

Good and as CEO u realize how hard even ur lowest employee works on so little pay and still needs food stamps to get by. Without them ur employee may have to go without electric or rent. Just for food alone. I emplor u to look long and hard about giving any server a set wage comparable to or above minimum wage and raise other employees a higher wage than minimum. Or enough to live on. And servers should still be allowed tips. I hope other ceo’s take up the challenge too.

Posted by Rachel Rader | September 18, 2013 at 9:04 PM

This site always brings me to tears! Called Senator Rice (SC) yesterday !

Posted by Deirdre | September 18, 2013 at 9:27 PM

As a 19 yr old divorced mother of two we lived the snap challenge (food stamps back then) I went back to school because I knew I needed more education to support my children. Their biological dad provided nothing. Many evenings when there were no more food stamps I scraped together a meal for my children. Sometimes it was only scrambled eggs. I am grateful that I was able to feed my family while trying to get back on my feet. Today my children are productive successful adults thanks in part to having food adequate for their development.

Posted by Stef Mowry | September 18, 2013 at 9:37 PM

Thank you for taking the SNAP Challenge as many children are starving and hungry due to no food right here in America.

What troubles me is the exploitation of the THE HUNGER game, that came out of the suffering of many people in America that were subjected and still subjected to the game of life that interjected children into it without their parent’s consent or knowledge. The arrogance of exploiting children in one breathe and claim to be a loving deity in another is a little much for me.

I vow until they submit to end their games against innocent children and their families and will expose them all that I can until the day I leave this earth.

No child on this earth shall be hungry, without clothes, a decent place to live, nor adult, this is a big world and it belongs to the universal powers.

We are dealing with a fake man gods and they are disappointing us at every turn, and it is time once again to end the wars against innocent people and children.

Another one of my fight is to end the sexual exploitation of children to feel the fantasy of men and women that has taken children as their slaves right here in America and abroad, all of their inhumane practice has to end.

That is my soap box and thanks again.
Linda Enshes

Posted by Linda Enshes | September 18, 2013 at 9:40 PM

It’s great that he is doing this, even if it is just for a week. What I find most interesting is that he mentions having a big cup of coffee or a juicy steak waiting at the end of the road. This is the part of being constantly hungry that i have trouble explaining. When I hear people talk about having stood in the grocery line behind someone who was buying steaks or junk food with their SNAP card, i try to explain to them that by the end of the month, the SNAP money is gone and many people are even hungrier than usual. That last week of getting by with next to nothing makes them get a little crazy when the next cycle starts. It’s just human nature and in this country, we are constantly being bombarded with commercials that show both us and our children images of delicious food that we can’t afford. Outback steakhouse, Red Lobster and Olive Garden have ads that make your mouth water, especially when all you had to eat that day was peanut butter. It’s next to impossible not to buy that steak at the beginning of the month, even though it means that the money will run out sooner.

Posted by Melissa Kennedy | September 18, 2013 at 9:49 PM

do you have a phone# where i can call in a donation.

Posted by kay sharp | September 18, 2013 at 9:55 PM

i live on food stamps. i am 64 years old and disabled. i live on my social security check and i have rent assistance. i am able to make it through the month because i am able to get food from a church pantry once per month through Care to Share. i also make a weekly trip to Tualatin Valley Gleaners, which is an all volunteer organization working with the Oregon Food Bank, local grocery stores and the Farmers Market to feed 200 families per week every Saturday at the Beaverton Resource Center. Without these organizations, i would be very hard pressed to be on a healthy diet.

Posted by Carol Friendly | September 18, 2013 at 10:19 PM

I for one appreciate what you are doing. I don’t know if anyone else has taken the challenge but I feel if they did perhaps things would turn around. Thank you for caring enough to do this. I pray your message gets to the right people. God bless you.

Posted by Barbara Guariglio | September 18, 2013 at 10:50 PM

I applaud your challenge. I reside at the YWCA of Helena and see some of these women trying to push through the day hungry. Or worse… have to watch their children suffer the consequences of not having the proper nutrition.

Posted by Carole Solomon | September 19, 2013 at 7:47 AM

I already do participate in it. I have every day for years. I need to eat 7 times per day to maintain my weight. I have 15 allergies, only 10 or 11 are to food. This makes it difficult at best to feed myself properly. I can’t eat just anything. I can relate about forgetting one’s lunch and going hungry. I must be organized and coordinated to be able to make my life work in ways many people are not accustomed to. I also have a 7 year old who has a food intolerance. Corn is in nearly EVERYTHING! Convenience food for us is beans I’ve soaked, cooked and put in the freezer. I have to do a great deal of work because I’m dealing with food allergies, a small budget, with the same 24 hours of time everyone else has. I try not to grimace, complain too long or too loudly because it could always be worse. I am writing this with a hunger headache.

Posted by Cynthia Gedz | September 19, 2013 at 8:48 AM

Hi Bonnie, Bob shared a photo of his grocery receipt for the week on the Feeding America Facebook:

Posted by Emily Basten | September 19, 2013 at 9:11 AM

Hi Kay, to make a donation by phone, please call 1-800-910-5524 and dial 1. Thank you so much!

Posted by Emily Basten | September 19, 2013 at 9:14 AM

We should put every member of Congress on the SNAP Challenge. It’s hard for people to understand what the problem is unless they go through it themselves.

Posted by Tammy | September 19, 2013 at 1:10 PM

I commend Mr. Aiken. One week will just give him a “taste” of what it’s like to exist on SNAP. He is also becoming aware of peripheral issues like not being able to drive home on his lunch hour to retrieve his forgotten sack lunch. I’m going to ask my husband if he’d be willing to try a week on a SNAP diet and see how we do.

The only time I’ve really been HUNGRY and without food is when I was hitchhiking through Europe and ran out of money. My friend and I ate windfall apples, even ones with worms in them! when we ate our one “meal” a day at a restaurant, we took everything leftover, to sustain us later – crackers, salt and pepper, sugar packets, jam packets, catsup, mustard. . It didn’t make for healthy eating, but it gave us a taste of being hungry also. We would cook a small canister of oatmeal at night in a hostel and eat the whole thing plain. I sure wouldn’t want to live that way permanently.

It’s really shameful that almost 1/2 of the food produced is wasted.

Posted by Bev Hannon | September 20, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Every member of Congress, the House, and every governor of every state should have to live the SNAP challenge for not one month, but several, so they get a real feel for the reality so many of us live now. They all come from money and haven’t had to do without so they don’t appreciate what we go through or appreciate what they have. In fact, they should have to live our lives, on our budgets, dealing with the red tape, delays, and laws they put in place for us to live with, and get a very eye-opening reality check on life in the U.S. for the poor.

I’ve been living the SNAP challenge for years now….in fact the SNAP benefit I get each month is my entire food budget. If it’s cut I have to do with less. When prices go up as they always do I have to do with less. There is literally nothing left of my meager paycheck after rent and utilities, plus the insurance on my 22+ year old car, which I need if I want to keep my job. I also live in HUD housing or I’d be on the streets or most likely, dead by now. I’m a crossing guard, literally protecting our most precious asset: the children. I go hungry quite often these days, which isn’t good for my health. I’m prediabetic so I can’t fill up on cheap noodles, rice, potatoes, or bread. I can’t have anything with high fructose corn syrup in it either….so you can imagine how many items at the store are off limits to me; it seems to be in nearly everything! Half the food at the local food pantry are also off limits. We rarely see fresh veggies or fruit, meat is a luxury the pantry NEVER sees here. I can’t imagine having a child I couldn’t feed but I know that is a harsh reality for too many of us.

I applaud you Bob for taking the challenge, if only for a week. I wish more people like you would take up the challenge too.

Posted by Lori | September 20, 2013 at 12:37 PM

“…It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.”

Stop petitioning the government and start volunteering. Emailing your Senator is lazy. And you get no moral credit for doing so.

Feeding America needs to get its message straight. Ask people to help people by donating their own time and money. Don’t ask people to get the political class to harass other people for the sake of poor people. This only builds resentment and degrades social trust.

Posted by Leo Vert | September 22, 2013 at 11:41 AM

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