The Five Stages of SNAP Challenge

1) Denial and Isolation: On Saturday when I unloaded my $27 worth of groceries, I smugly wondered: How am I going to eat all of this food? By myself? Seriously: A POUND of black beans, a whole head of cabbage, a 5-pound sack of potatoes, two boxes of spaghetti, eight chicken-thighs and 18 eggs. Eighteen! I didn’t even know what I’d eat first – the chicken or the eggs? I filled my crockpot to the brim with hearty, homemade black-bean soup. Parting it out into six massive servings, I figured I should just go ahead and freeze some since I’d probably be eating it for the next three weeks. Sure, I was light on the fresh fruits and vegetables, but still: $27 can buy a lot of food, especially with coupons. I got this in the bag (Actually it was three reusable bags).

According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who identified the original Five Stages of Loss and Grief, denial is “a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.”

Make that pangs. Hunger pangs.

2) Anger: COFFEE IS A FOOD, DAMMIT! And I didn’t buy any with my precious $27! Sure, I got a stupid head of cabbage, but that isn’t going to get me out of bed on this fine Monday morning! It sure as hell isn’t going to make me anymore pleasant and perky at work. And if I have to eat black-bean soup AGAIN for lunch, I’m going to scream… and it’s only Wednesday! ARGH! Who the hell thought this stupid challenge was a good idea anyway?

3) Bargaining: If I recycle the grounds today that were leftover from my husband’s coffee yesterday, then that’s not spending any of my $27. It’s recycling. SSSStttttttHHHHhhhPPPPpppprraatttt!!! That tastes like crap! (According to Kubler Ross, some may move back and forth between the stages as they process their emotions. Ergo, more anger, which is likely attributable to the lack of decent-tasting coffee). But we have coffee at work… and I don’t have to pay for it. Surely people on SNAP can avail themselves to coffee in the break room? What kind of workplace doesn’t have coffee? Of course, if you can’t work – like little kids, senior citizens or disabled persons – then you wouldn’t have coffee in the break room. But in Arizona, over 50 percent of SNAP recipients are members of a working family. So they may have coffee in the break room, but they might not get paid enough to put food on the table… if they’re even allowed to take a break.

4) Depression: Hunger gnaws at my belly. I’ve lost three pounds since Monday, but I find no joy in it. I just find myself looking at the clock, seeing how long I can go before I eat again. I wake up hungry, two hours before the alarm. I don’t think I planned this experience very well. I should have held some of that $27 in reserve. I am grateful for my boiled egg and my peanut butter on wheat: If I can stretch it till 7:30, then I can make it until 11:30 for lunch, I think. I scowl at the coffee pot. I am ashamed of myself for drinking Patrick’s coffee yesterday.

4.1) More Bargaining: I don’t think butter is a food. I consider it more of a “basic seasoning” (allowable). I mean, it’s not like you’d just peel open a stick of butter and start eating it, right? So no, butter is definitely not a food and I can put it on my microwaved potato.

4.2) More Anger: You know, this is stupid. I had a late meeting on campus today and had to walk all the way back to my car in the heat and humidity. I was parched and starving. I hadn’t eaten since noon. It was the end of the day. Screw it: I stopped by the QuikTrip before my 45-minute ride home because dehydration is not something to mess around with.

4.3) More Bargaining: It’s not like I spent my own money at the QuikTrip – I had a winning scratcher lottery ticket. I cashed it in and spent $3.03 on a bottle of water… and a snack bag of Wheat Thins, with $1.97 left over. It was the HOUSE’S money, not mine. So that doesn’t count, does it?

4.4) More Depression: I hate myself for eating those Wheat Thins… and drinking that water… $3.03 could have bought me a week’s worth of dried beans and rice, with change leftover for an apple or two. What about people who don’t live near a decent grocery or have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables? What about people whose main shopping option is a convenience store? Here I am whining because I can’t make it through four days without cheating on the SNAP Challenge? What kind of loser am I?

5) Acceptance: The SNAP Challenge is hard, but I am fortunate that I only have three more days. The average SNAP recipient participates in the program for eight to 10 months. I don’t have little kids depending on me to keep food on the table, especially not in the summer when they can’t count on their school breakfast and lunch programs. I’m going to buck up and face the next few days calmly. Acceptance: It is the very least I can do.

4 thoughts on “The Five Stages of SNAP Challenge

  1. Once again I am thankful for your writing abilities – so eloquently expressed – thank you SB for reminding me to be grateful and generous to ose in need – donation being made i St. Mary’s in honor of your efforts this week!

  2. So does yor acceptance mean you’re cool with reducing the SNAP allowance, like some legislators want to do – like to zero?

  3. Stacy…I think you just experienced what any normal adult goes through when they are facing food insecurity. It is an hourly struggle sometimes. And, the bargaining and guilt vary…you may put off going to the doctor for an illness because you want the money to feed yourself or your children, or maybe it is skipping your lunch all week so that your child go on a school field trip, etc. I think while I was at the food bank, I heard every story from food box recipients and they included some of the things that you included in your blog. Amazing, lady!

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