Open Arms of Minnesota

SNAP Challenge: Worried about food

By Susan Pagani

As a food writer, I spend a healthy portion of my days thinking about what I will eat and drink next — but not worrying about it. These last few days have been an eye-opening lesson in food anxiety and the scrimping that results.

On Friday, I worried that I would make a mistake with the honey wheat bread recipe and ruin all that beautiful flour. And then, of course, what would I do for food? Once baked, I worried about cutting the slices too thick and running out before I’d made all my lunches and snacks.

On Saturday, I was worried about feeling hungry whilst working the Butterball Party — a fund-raising party of which we are the beneficiary — so I held my lunch until late afternoon and took dinner with me. Once at the party, I was determined not to eat my dinner because I knew we’d get out late and I was worried about trying to fall asleep at two o’clock in the morning on a grumbling stomach. On Sunday, I was exhausted from said party and drank several cups of my tea, worrying all the while — would I regret it at the end of the week? — but feeling my resolve to portion dissipate with every warm cup.

These past four days, I have been so parsimonious with my raisins that today I was able to put a heaping quarter cup on my cereal, no longer worried about the wee bag lasting seven days. The substantial feeling of chewing and chewing and chewing up all those raisins was as fleeting as their sweetness but wonderful.

But for all that worry, have I been hungry? Yes and no. I certainly haven’t been starving, but I have felt the kind of nagging hunger that makes it hard to focus on work and easy to obsess about food. I’m eating really good food, but not quite enough of it. I’ve also made some poor choices in my shopping that have contributed to my hunger. For example, the bread was lovely and tasted delicious, but it didn’t provide a lot of protein, and I couldn’t afford spreadable or sliceable proteins to put on it — or even fat, for that matter. So, an hour or two later, I’m thinking about food again.

However, I was able to take a loaf of the bread to a brunch with friends. I felt good setting it on the table with the other food — a bowl of apples, a sun-dried tomato frittata (12 eggs, 4 people, the luxury!), butter and endless cups of coffee. For a seven-day food justice experiment, the choice to eat a few lean meals in order to have food to take to a potluck is an easy one. Long term, I know I’d have to swap that loaf of bread for a bag of beans or a cup of peanut butter. Yet, without the bread, would I feel comfortable going to a friend’s house for a meal with nothing to contribute?

Later this week, I’ll be sharing the Thanksgiving meal with some very dear friends. I am so thankful, not only for all the delicious food I will eat, but also for the food I will be able to share with peace of mind, not worrying about portions or where my next meal is going to come from.

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