Open Arms of Minnesota

SNAP Challenge: It's time for a HAPPY Thanksgiving!

By David Plante

Today is the last full day of our SNAP challenge and I cannot wait for it to be over. In fact, this morning I cheated. I made a piece of toast with chunky peanut butter and blueberry preserves; I simply could not face another bowl of oatmeal. At that moment nothing could have made me happier.

And that gave me pause. It helped me remember that one of the things I love about being an adult with some disposable income is that if I have a craving for something, I can almost always satisfy it, with few exceptions.

The SNAP challenge has been an exercise in understanding food justice. Before I started it, I had already agreed wholeheartedly with the notion of food justice, and defined it quite simply as this: in a nation as rich as ours no one should go hungry. Further, I assumed the net result of food injustice was poor nutrition and, ultimately, poor physical well-being. To be sure, I’m also aware that insecurity takes a toll on people’s overall health.

But I think food justice is more than that. When I think about the role food plays in my own life—and it’s a big one—I have to believe that when people don’t have access to healthy, nutritious, good tasting food, the result isn’t just poor physical well-being. It’s emotional/social/psychological well-being. More simply, if people struggle to get enough food or the right food, how can they possibly be happy?

Some of the happiest moments of my life involve food. Some are simple, like always getting a bagel from Murray’s whenever I’m in NYC and being reminded of the first time Kent and I went to the city together. Some are comforting, like making one of my grandma’s recipes and feeling that somehow she’s still looking over my shoulder while I’m doing it. Some are exciting, like exploring by meal every new city we visit, and feeling somehow more connected to the people that live there. And some are humbling, like being able to buy a hungry woman and her child groceries in Cape Town.

The SNAP challenge has made me realize that food justice is about much more than physical well-being. What if instead we measured success against injustice not only in terms of physical well-being but also some sort of measure of happiness? How different would the world be?

Happy—and I really mean HAPPY—Thanksgiving!

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