2011 Hunger Challenge Day 3: Irrational Rations

I’m taking the San Francisco Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge for the fourth year – trying to feed my husband (the Bottomless Pit) and myself for just $4.72 each per day. I am perpetually befuddled by the psychology of poverty. Just today, there was a photo in USAToday of a woman who’s been laid-off since February, whose family uses food stamps to help get by. She was standing, smoking a cigarette in front of her flat-screen TV. Of course, my first reaction was, “Maybe she should have saved her money for a crisis instead of buying that TV. And why is she smoking? Cigarettes are expensive!” But I know that the emotional toll of poverty doesn’t follow a logical path. Maybe being able to smoke a cigarette is the one little comforting bit of normalcy that’s helping that 56-year old woman keep it together while she searches for another factory job. I’ve talked with a family living in poverty here in San Francisco that used a small windfall to buy a big, flat-screen TV. It made no sense to me, since they were struggling to put food on the table. But then the woman said something very revealing: “We bought this because we don’t want our children to feel inferior to other kids.” That sense of being deprived messes with people’s minds. It causes them to often do things that seem irrational. And just think how that gets magnified when you don’t want your children to feel deprived. That’s why, in many cases, parents skip meals so their kids can eat. That irrational deprived feeling hit me today. I had a couple of pieces of celery at lunchtime, and planned on sticking it out until I had an early dinner before going to my 7 pm yoga class. Uh-uh. At 2:30, I was really hungry – starved for protein, I suppose, since I’d just had oatmeal and half a banana for breakfast. So without really thinking about whether our precious egg stash would make it through the week, I just went to the fridge, grabbed two eggs, some leftover whole-wheat spaghetti and a few roasted cherry tomatoes.


An impromptu – and probably foolish – scramble of eggs, whole-wheat pasta and roasted cherry tomatoes. Will we have enough food by the end of the week?

They looked beautiful in the skillet! So what if we’re out of luck when Friday rolls around! I scrambled everything together until it resembled spaghetti with a weird skin condition – but it tasted great and really filled me up. The tomatoes, roasted for 4 hours yesterday in a 200-degree oven, were like little flavor bombs. By 6:30, though, I was hungry again. Too bad I don’t smoke cigarettes! GET INVOLVED! ♥ Take the Hunger Challenge yourself. Sign up here. ♥ Read blogs by people taking the Hunger Challenge. There’s a blogroll here. ♥ Follow the Hunger Challengers on Twitter. There’s a listing here, or search for the hashtag #HungerChallenge. ♥ Learn more about the San Francisco Food Bank – and make a donation. For every $1 donated the food bank can supply hungry people with $6 worth of food! ♥ Follow the San Francisco Food Bank on Twitter or visit their Facebook page to see how they’re fighting hunger every day.


5 Responses to 2011 Hunger Challenge Day 3: Irrational Rations

  1. Sarah September 15, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Not nearly at the same level, but it is the same psychology behind dieting, and why generally diets fail – when you feel deprived you do irrational things. With diets, it usually means mega-caloric splurging that ultimately undermines your goal. Thanks for doing this each year, Gayle!

    • BeenThereAteThat September 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

      Thanks, Sarah! You’re right – but the difference is, in dieting, it’s self-imposed deprivation; with hunger, it’s deprivation where you have no control. That has to mess with your mind a lot more, I’d say.

  2. beth @ kitchenmage September 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    Let me offer a few possibilities.

    Maybe she bought the television when she had a job. Maybe it was a gift. Maybe she has tried to sell it and discovered it wouldn’t bring in enough cash to make it worthwhile.

    Maybe she has tried to quit smoking and run into typical issues with trying to stop using addictive substances. Maybe she has no medical insurance to help her with this.

    Maybe that pasta scramble thing would count as an indulgent meal for a struggling family. Maybe the parents will give the kids all the tomatoes and eggs, keeping plain pasta for themselves. Maybe not even that.

    Maybe “So what if we’re out of luck when Friday rolls around!” isn’t such a throwaway line if it’s your reality.

  3. BeenThereAteThat September 16, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    Exactly my point, Beth! I think people are very quick to judge on appearances – when any of the alternative scenarios you mentioned might actually be the case.

    I found it very interesting that USAToday chose to run the photo that they did with their story. It’s almost as if they wanted to show the woman in the worst possible light from the perspective of someone who might jump to conclusions. Could Rupert Murdoch have secretly taken over yet another newspaper?

    I have to disagree with you about my comment that I didn’t care if we were out of luck when Friday rolls around. It wasn’t a throwaway line – it’s how I felt at the moment. I wanted immediate gratification. I honestly think that kind of behavior would hit me even more often if poverty was my reality. I’ll add here that there are no kids in my household. It would be a whole other story in that case.

    I’ve talked with parents who haven’t eaten so their kids could eat – and older siblings who give their food to their younger siblings. I know of kids who get their only meal of the day at school (a free school lunch), and I know of teachers who have paid for snacks out of their own pockets to keep hungry kids alert and learning.

    This is a good week to bring attention to those people who live with hunger all year long. Sadly, few people even know they exist.

  4. beth @ kitchenmage September 17, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    It’s really interesting to read all the posts and comments this year. Seems like much more thought going into this than some previous times.

    Didn’t really mean you were dismissive. Sorry. I read a few “We’re gonna feast when we’re done” posts before this and misplaced that sentiment.

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