At least half the people I’ve told about the Food Stamp Challenge I’m doing for Lent have responded along these lines:
“But I can buy you food, right?”
People try to buy meals for me, stock my pantry, suggest that I should fill up on the coffee hour snacks after church, or remind me of all the events and meetings where I can supplement with free meals.
Their intent is to care for me, which I very much appreciate. The last thing they’re trying to do is make it harder to stick to this discipline, but that’s exactly what it does when they remind me of all the loopholes I could possibly slip through during this process. Believe me, I already know the loopholes. I am a pro at walking riiiiiiight up to the line and getting around the letter of the law. I have already thought about the fact that I could easily eat several meals a week at work functions and say that they “don’t count.” I’ve been well aware of the enormous amount of food that surrounds me at work.
That’s exactly why I set limits to the free meals I will eat (Sunday dinners with the youth group, a couple of Wednesday Lenten dinners) and nixed “donations” or friends taking me out for meals. Frankly, if I accepted all of the well-meaning charity coming my way, this wouldn’t be a challenge at all. The idea is for this to be a discipline, which makes me more mindful of what I am eating and why, and which reminds me of people whose realities around food are different from my own. It’s supposed to be a sacrifice. It’s supposed to be different from my normal patterns around purchasing and consuming food. That’s what makes it a discipline. Besides, I doubt that most people in poverty have friends begging to bring them peanut butter or take them out to dinner.
So, first of all, don’t worry about me. I’m hardly martyring myself for this cause; so far I’ve managed to fit spinach and mushroom-stuffed pork chops and turkey chili into the budget, and I haven’t eaten ramen once (yet – I’m sure that day will come). The primary difference for me thus far hasn’t been the quality of food – although yes, I’m foregoing some items that are usually staples of my diet, like seafood, good cheese, and fresh mushrooms. Woe! The real difference has been the time I have to spend preparing to eat: shopping carefully, planning ahead for meals, cooking at home, packaging food to take to work, etc. It’s a challenge – a discipline – but I’m not exactly suffering.
That said, some people really are suffering. Since some of you seem to have food and funds to spare for me, perhaps you could spare it for someone who really needs it? The money I save in this challenge is going to the Schenectady Inner City Ministry Emergency Food Pantry, and it would be really lovely if some of you chose to donate there as well. You can do so online here. The need for food in this community is tremendous, with over 70% of children considered food insecure. Your help would be much appreciated!