Sunday, March 23, 2008

Food Stamp Challenge: Who is My Neighbor?

Welcome to the Belmont UMC Food Stamp Challenge blog! This is a place for you to learn about the Food Stamp Challenge, read stories of participants, and share your thoughts about the experience.

So, what is the Food Stamp Challenge?

Well, we are blessed to live in a country with enough food for all. The Food Stamp Challenge seeks to help us be aware of the struggles for food that some of our neighbors have, even in the midst of our world’s bounty.

Each month about 25 million people in the United States participate in the nation’s Food Stamp Program. On average, the participants receive $21 per week ($1 per meal) for each person in their household to eat. As a result, millions of people in our nation—some who are our neighbors right here in Nashville—find it difficult to eat enough food each day and nearly impossible to add healthy choices into their diets.

Belmont’s Good Neighbors ministry invites you to stand in solidarity with our hungry neighbors through the Belmont Food Stamp Challenge. You can join the challenge at any time during Lent.

How You Can Participate:

1. Prayer: Please remember those who are hungry in your daily prayers.
2. $21 Food Stamp Challenge: Live for at least one week of Lent ( or the entire Lenten season Feb. 6- March 23) on the national average Food Stamp allotment of $21 per person in your household per week.
3. WNAB: Fellowship with other Belmonters on Wednesday nights and choose to eat the $1 meal option instead of the regular meal (write $1 next to your reservation, please). Also plan to attend special WNAB sessions on the Food Stamp Challenge and homelessness and poverty in Nashville Feb. 13, Feb. 27 and March 5.
4. Offering: Save the money that you would have spent for your family each week you participate, and offer it as an Easter gift to a feeding program of choice (a list of a few programs are available on the sidebar). Even if you are not doing the $21/week challenge, you can save a designated amount each week of Lent so that you can donate to a program of choice.

We hope you'll visit the blog often and leave comments about your experience!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Belmont,

I tired your challenge for one day and I was so very hungry!

It was interesting because I miss meals every day and it never bothers me. Yet, as I actually lived as if I only had $3 per day to live on, a panic surged over me as never before and I found that I was consumed with food. I worried about what I would/could afford to eat for lunch, dinner, etc. What if I want a snack? Could I afford Breyers Ice Cream? I don't like the cheap ice cream.

I ended up buying the cheap ice cream that was on sale for $1.89 and panicked that I had spent almost an entire day's allowance on ice cream. AND it was ice cream that I didn't like.

I was shocked to find out how expensive apples are, the only fruit that I really must have. I usually just bag my apples in the produce department, go to the checkout counter and complain how little a hundred dollars buys these days. I never really discern the price of apples in a manner that would ever prevent me from buying them. I need apples so I buy them.

On Monday, I bought two apples because it was all I could afford. I only ate 1/2 of the apple at a time. It lasted for four meals because I stacked each half with peanut butter for protein. I was reverting back to my childhood. As a child,my mother would only give me a half an apple at a time to prevent me from wasting it. I hated it then and I hated it even more now.

I had whole grain bread but it was not the brand I usually buy - it was the cheap brand.

And that was the theme of my life for a few days. I started resenting the word "cheap" and resenting "those people" who were eating and buying whatever they wanted, throwing all caution to the wind and ignoring us poor folks.

Though it was all self imposed,I wondered as my stomach rumbled with hunger pangs how people endure on a day-to-day basis worrying about food. I felt what they felt buying cheap, living cheaply, feeling cheapened. How could one feel good about themselves if all they experience is sub-standard living?

I passed a homeless man on the street and he asked for money. I gave him the dollar that I had left, not because I felt sorry for him, but because for one split second, he and I were one. I felt a sense of connection to him that I had never experienced before. I wasn't giving to him, I was sharing with him and there is a difference.

You see, I sometimes resent the people begging on the streets. They look fit to me and I often think if they would just exert that same energy getting a job that they exert begging, then they would be fine. So when I give, it is not necessarily that I empathize. It is from shame, shame that I have and they don't. THEY and the world make me feel ashamed because I have a job and they don't and sometimes I just want to scream, "Get a job!" Instead, I intellectually give them a dollar to feel better about myself and that is only if they get close enough to me and people are watching.

But sometimes, moments like today, we connect and we are family. I can give them my last because to give to them is to give to me, to give to all humanity.

John Wesley says that we should earn all we can, save all we can and give all we can. Am I giving back to God all I can? No. I'm giving him what I believe is his share , 10%. Sad! Could I give more? Sure.

What this challenge is showing me is that I don't really need all the things I buy, that I can survive with less. While I won't give to support an addiction, I will find ways to give to those things that will help better the lives of those around me. If I have more than I need - not more than I want - but more than I need, then God wants me to share my excess with others.

I am not so hungry today but that is because I ate the two-day old oatmeal that was left in the refrigerator, the oatmeal that I would have normally thrown away. I added some milk and water and micro-waved it and it tasted just fine. I'll give the $1 that I would have spent on a muffin to a homeless person on the street today. I know the one. I know the corner.

Thanks for sharing this with me and making me think of how blessed I truly am. Thanks for giving me opportunities to grow in Christ and ways that I can truly be in communion with others.

We all are hungry but if we knew the One who was truly asking us for bread, we'd ask him for food instead - life sustaining food that fills us up so that we will hunger no more. I'm going to share with others until I am filled with the true bread of life and perhaps then I can feed others that same bread and then none of us will ever hungry again.