First, let me answer the question: “What is #SurviveOn35”? For the entire story, read this post on FitFluential.com. In a nutshell, 10 FitFluential Ambassadors are spending $35 per person to eat for a week. Anytime Fitness is sponsoring the challenge. The blogger to win the challenge wins $1,000 donated to the food pantry of his/her choice.
My family is getting $110 – about the same we would receive if we were on foodstamps.
Tonight as I was reading the reactions to this challenge, I came across someone speaking out against the challenge. She had some very valid points. Hunger is not a game. And people struck by poverty (or just in a hard time of their life) do not see it as fun or a game.
What she does not know, is that I know exactly what she is talking about.
Here is my story, and why I am doing this challenge.
I was a surprise to my mother. She raised me on her own for the first 4 years of my life. She walked with me in the stroller everywhere and raised me on minimum wage income. When I was about 4, she married, hoping for a better life. He tried, and things started to look up. But their marriage was rocky and his jobs were never dependable. Within 5 years of their marriage, they had 4 kids (including me, age 9) to raise on one income – my dad’s. He worked entry-level jobs. Life was tight. Money was non-existent. Christmases we received gifts from “Jesus” (our church’s angel tree program). There were Thanksgivings where we were surprised by a knock on the door and someone dropping off a basket of holiday food. I remember summers sitting in the hot car, waiting in line for the commodities distribution.
Food pantries, church pantries – that is where I thought people shopped. For the first 12 years of my life, I thought it was normal to buy things labeled “WIC Approved.”
Then I entered middle school – the year my parents divorced and my mom worked full time to raise her 5 children on her own. I had an experience that sticks with me to this day. My friends wanted to walk down to the local small-town grocery store and buy a soda. I asked mom for money and she handed me a food stamp bill. When I paid for my treat with that food stamp, these “friends” would not let me live it down. I was ridiculed. “Does your mom pay for your house with food stamps? I can’t believe you had to pay with a food stamp!”
I felt ashamed. And I was mad. She never had a dime to spare for meals on field trips. I lied and told my teachers in the McDonald’s line, “I am not hungry,” as my stomach growled at the site of their burgers. I hated it. I wanted just $2 for a burger and fries! As a kid, I had no idea how hard my mom worked to make sure every penny was spent on the best food possible for her children. I just saw what I didn’t have. And no matter that she was able to feed healthy foods to 5 children on just her own income and food stamps. I would see that accomplishment later, in hindsight.
As I participate in this challenge, it is not a game to me. I am not laughing or poking fun or looking down my nose. As I shopped for my groceries, I did exactly what my mother taught me to – I bought the items on sale, bought in bulk, and purchased the store-brand. She also fed my family on lots of rice and one-pot creations – one of which I will cook for you this week.
I am doing this challenge because I want to win it so the food pantry that fed me as a child can receive the $1,000. I am constantly giving back to it – always have. But it will give me such amazing joy to see them receive the grand prize!
Please join me on this very personal journey. I want to help others learn that it is not a shameful thing to be poor. My mom never let me feel ashamed as a kid! She rejoiced in every blessing and was always teaching me how to make every ingredient stretch. I am hoping this challenge and my story inspires you to live on less and give the excess to your local food pantry!