Today is Day 5, the final day of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC FNS Challenge, to live on just $4.06 of food each day and gain a sense of what life is like for thousands of people in NC who are food insecure. If I picked just one word to describe this experience, it would be enlightening. I didn’t anticipate that food shopping, something I love to do under normal circumstances, would be so stressful and frustrating. Planning a nutritious menu within the budget constraints that provided enough variety to remain satisfying for five days was a taxing, time-consuming chore. Eating more or less the same breakfast, lunch and dinner proved to be tedious. The high point of my meals for the past five days was a “treat” of a peach smoothie that was nothing more than a cup of vanilla yogurt, a peach and a few ice cubes. That sweet and creamy drink broke up the monotony between oatmeal and rice. The most expensive, as well as the most nutritious, foods I had were fruits and vegetables which consumed more than half the allotted food budget. Still, I suffered no shortage of learning opportunities during the past five days (though I did suffer through and survived caffeine withdrawal).
While I was preparing meals for the week I reflected on all that I have a my disposal that allows me to cook meals at home: knives, a cutting board, pots and pans, storage containers, etc. There’s quite a bit of basic kitchen equipment a home cook needs. Then there are pantry staples, like oils, salt, pepper, spices, seasonings and the like, needed to create a flavorful and satisfying dish. I wondered how I might manage to secure those precious groceries with a meager $4.06 a day. I also realized that I waste too much food. I’m going to be much, much better about effectively and fully utilizing ingredients in the future as a result of this experience.
Even if you didn’t participate in the FNS Challenge, there are many ways to become involved with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC. I’m sure you’ve donated food items through food drives in the past, and will do so again in the future. You could also volunteer as well as participate in any of several upcoming events. Did you know you can take a behind the scene tour of kitchens in historic New Bern homes, including Tryon Palace, in September? Raleigh’s Irregardless Cafe is hosting a special fundraising dinner (with both carnivore and vegetarian menu options) on September 10th. If you’re going to Farm Aid you can bring donations to leave with the Food Bank truck that you’ll find at the main entrance. You can also donate non-food essentials (since FNS benefits can’t be used for pay for those items) including paper products, personal hygiene and household items. The Food Bank does important work to support the food insecure within our communities but they can’t continue that work without our support.