Open Arms of Minnesota

Re-living the SNAP challenge decades later


By David Plante

Today is Day 2 of our SNAP challenge. I will admit that I was reluctant to participate in the challenge, not because I was afraid of it, but because I lived it when I was a kid. My family survived during much of my childhood because of the safety net in place—including food stamps–for families like ours: six kids (five of them growing boys), mom had her hands too full and, because of the late 70s/early 80s economy, my dad was underemployed.

But my experience with the challenge thus far is so very different than it was then. At the time I never knew we weren’t rich. I thought every family ate the same thing for dinner night after night. I knew that we received reduced-priced lunches, but never thought twice about it—we were one of many families in my northern Minnesota hometown living the same way.

My experience with the challenge thus far is just how desperate it makes me feel, a feeling my parents shielded me from growing up. I miss running to Starbucks and grab a latte, especially when everyone around me worships the coffee cup in their hand as if it’s magic potion. I’ve never appreciated more the fact that we don’t pay particular attention to how much we spend on groceries, or worry about running out of something because there’s always more at a store five minutes away.

I’m not especially hungry at the end of the day, but I am completely bored with what I’ve ingested. Today’s lunch was rice & beans, the third time I’ve eaten this meal in 26 hours. Make no mistake, I am grateful for every meal. I am grateful that I have the luxury of being bored with what I’m eating. I know in less than a week I’ll be done with this challenge, but for so many—including families just like the one I grew up in—the challenge doesn’t end.

I’ve often thought about what my parents went through to keep us fed and clothed, and maintain a roof over our head. What I hadn’t thought about was how desperate and frightened they must have felt, wondering if they could make it each month, and how courageous they were as they sheltered us, mostly, from all of that fear and insecurity. I can only imagine how difficult it is decades later for families in a world that is seemingly so much harsher.

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