How has Society ‘Hijacked’ Meaning of Christmas?

Lena Williams, Reporter

Could you live on a $4.18 per day food budget?

Students, faculty and staff  found the challenge unappetizing during Hunger and Homeless week, when Campus Ministry offered the SNAP challenge. The week-long challenge was to show how difficult it is for millions of low-income families to afford nutritious foods and avoid hunger.

Sean Farry, Campus Minister, participated, and he did his best to stretch $4.18 for three meals each day.

He didn’t last the week, at least partially because he went it alone.

“I went to the grocery store with $20, and it was very difficult because I could not afford something like meat because it was too expensive. I had to change my diet and resort to simpler options such as peanut butter and jelly, eggs, pasta and cereal. This challenge makes you more aware of other people’s living situations, and uncomfortable as well,” said Farry.

SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly the Food Stamp Program, offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net, and it works with state agencies, nutrition educators, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure that those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the program and can access benefits

SNAP benefits are delivered via an electronic account called Electronic Benefits Transfer or EBT. The eligible household receives a plastic card, which allows withdrawals for food purchases at grocery stores and supermarkets. The EBT ACCESS card electronically subtracts purchases from the SNAP account, and the recipient can only spend the amount that is in the account.

“I believe that the SNAP challenge is a great way to raise awareness about hunger in America, and more people should participate. It is obvious that $4 a day for three meals cannot support a healthy and nutritious diet,” said Trinity Sprague, senior biology major.

During the holiday seasons families take pride in large festive dinners, but millions of Americans may not know when their next meal will be. According to Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization, 41 million Americans struggle with hunger. In addition, 59 percent of food-insecure households participate in the SNAP program.

Food insecurity is the inability to provide food for every member in a family to sustain a healthy lifestyle. There are various causes of food insecurity, whether they may be lay-offs at work or unexpected expenses.

Food insecurity has a serious effect on health, a child’s ability to grow and learn, and living situations for senior citizens.

Food insecurity adds additional stress to financially struggling households during the holiday season. A study by Feeding America, which examined the choices and compromises low-income families have to make due to limited resources, found that 69 percent of families had to choose between food and utilities, and 66 percent had to choose between food and medical care.

The commercialized gift giving component of the season creates even more difficulty for many families. Businesses and corporations have altered the perception of the holiday season, emphasizing material gifts, exuberant decorations and parties.

“This season is now about receiving and buying things. Our society and culture has taken the true meaning of Christmas and hijacked it,” said Farry.

“I can only imagine what a mother who is struggling with hunger could be thinking who are bombarded with the message of showing your love through materialism,” said Farry.