This week’s SNAP Challenge has heightened sensitivity to our neighbors in need in many ways. I decided to do this by continuing to shop where I typically shop; the Whole Foods Market near my office. I know some foods are more expensive there than at other places, but I know they have some less expensive lines and I also wanted to see the difference from last week to this week. A few things became clear while I was shopping:
1. I felt very different from everyone else there. I was checking carefully for the least expensive item I could find – given the food choices I was making. I looked at every box and bag of pasta – on every shelf. Typically, I just pick the one that looks best, regardless of price. As other people walked past and selected items, I felt as if they were looking at me differently for spending so much time looking at how much came in each package (I knew I had to get a lot for a little). They may not have been thinking a thing about it or me, but I felt that way as I stared at each item and calculated in my head how much money I had left with each selection.
2. I only needed one bag to take home everything I bought. I usually walk out of Whole Foods with four bags, including a big salad from the salad bar and some other fresh foods. Not today. It all fit in one bag.
I can make it through a week on this budget; I can even consume more calories than I need to consume. But I can not eat whatever I want to eat; I can not buy the highest quality or most nutritious foods, and I can certainly not select the variety that I often like to have. There was no Odwalla juice in my bag; no box of Lara Bars.
I would have thought that I would not need to heighten my sensitivity to the conditions of those living in poverty all around us. Not with working seven days a week to create and grow programs to serve them. Not with being in the homes of as many low-income families as I have been. I was wrong. I need this sensitivity every bit as much as everyone else.
Today, I will talk with a dozen families living their whole lives to date in the manner we are doing this week. There will be even more hugs and more support than ever. There has to be.