SNAP Challenge Essay Sample

After participating in the SNAP challenge for a week, I was able to get a small glimpse into what those individuals who are on public assistance, especially SNAP go through. When I first saw this assignment on our schedule, I was intrigued by it and couldn't wait until we finally got the chance to do it because I have never heard of a SNAP challenge. This challenge has made it clearer to me that there has always been a stigma that surrounds people who need public assistance. People go through difficult times and this may be the only option. I've also come to realize that while the SNAP program was created to help people get back on their feet and provide short periods of hunger relief, this ultimately isn't the answer. The SNAP challenge was a perfect way to gain more insight into how people on public assistance still struggle.
Planning for this challenge was the most difficult part for me and I also believe that it is the most important step in general. I cannot begin to imagine the planning that families have to go through to make their EBT benefits last the entire month. It was hard. I went into this with a game plan but had to abort it. There were times when I had to skip meals so that I could make my food for later last. I initially thought that this challenge would be kind of easy for me because I always try to budget whenever I'm grocery shopping. However, this was not the case. While preparing for this challenge, I noticed it was very hard to just go into Walmart or Kroger and only spend $27 in total on groceries. In reality, that would only get you maybe five or six items, maybe less. Even when things are marked down, they still tend to add up. There were only a couple of things that I could pick up, and they were unhealthy and marked down. Stores like Dollar Tree and Dollar general became my best friend because they sold little frozen meals or cheap snacks that would make this challenge a bit easier.
While I was shopping for food items, I realized how many SNAP participants have to pay attention to the price of their items, so they won't go over their monthly budget. If it is cheaper somewhere else, they have to contemplate whether to get it from that current store or from the cheaper store, which requires to them possibly spend more gas. For example, I was in Walmart looking at the hot-pockets and noticed they were $2 but at Dollar Tree, they were only $1. I decided to drive to Dollar Tree and purchase them at a cheaper price. I went from store to store trying to find things at a reasonable price and seemed to always leave empty-handed and frustrated.
The challenge affected me more physically and mentally than I ever thought it would. Physically, I felt tired after the first day and had no energy to hang out with friends, go to class, study, or complete assignments. It was just an absolute struggle to maintain a high level of productivity that I am used to. I always have a list of things that I plan to get done each day, but quickly realized that I would not be able to do half of those things and accepted it, even though it was hard for me to accept. I felt like I was wasting my days away. The mental aspect was mainly negative. Frustration was a key theme for me. I was frustrated because I was constantly hungry and frustrated because I couldn't eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. There was a lot of psychological distress. I experienced nights where I couldn't sleep because I was still hungry after having a subpar dinner. I also had a very difficult time focusing on my classes.
In general, I would've thought that a person or family that receives SNAP benefits mental and physical states would better, but after experiencing the negative aspects for myself, my opinion has changed. After looking at everything that I bought, I realized that nothing I purchased was healthy and that this is how those families have to make decisions as well. Nutrition has to be thrown out of the window and you purchase whatever is cheap and unhealthy. This could also be a factor as to why studies have seen a steady increase in obesity among kids in families who receive public assistance. It also puts a mental strain on having to plan out those meals while also making your benefits stretch and last the entire month. There were times when I wanted to cry because I felt so helpless in the stores and helpless when I had to eat the same thing over and over again.
Even though I may have struggled a bit while completing this challenge, I am glad that I had the chance to do this. Participants of the SNAP program have a lot of decisions to make. They are constantly faced with the struggle of deciding on whether they should skip meals, buying unhealthy food, and ways to be creative so that their food supply lasts longer. While reflecting upon my experience, I thought about the documentary we watched, A Place at the Table and how it mentioned that there are no food policies in place to address hunger. We have things like entitlement or block grant programs, but those seem to be only short-term relief. It also made me think about how it is very hard for an individual or a family to qualify for public assistance because the government has made those qualifications very hard. I think that some changes need to be made when it comes to that as well. I didn't think about this until I began writing my reflection, but times for SNAP participants are growing increasingly harder because of budget cuts and that causes them to have to cut back on foods even more. Because of this, I think that it causes more people in the program and society as a whole to be more dependent on public assistance.
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