Opinion Your Views — 20 November 2012
Social services only go so far to end hunger

By Melanie Quillen, George Mason University student

To the editor:

It really should not be any surprise that food security is becoming a bigger issue with the state of the economy. First lady Michelle Obama has taken on the valiant quest to fighting childhood obesity, but unfortunately government funded programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) act as double edged swords. They alleviate immediate hunger while making foods low in nutritional value more accessible.

While SNAP benefits restrict purchases, it is unclear whether or not it will be reformed to comply with new Institute of Medicine dietary guidelines that discourage the consumption of high sodium and sugary foods. The School Lunch Act has been reformed to serve nutritional fruits and vegetables. Perhaps SNAP will be next to be put on a diet.

The national average for SNAP benefits is $24 a week. I decided that, as a master of social work candidate, a way to empathize with potential clients was to conduct a personal social experiment and feed myself with only $24 per week for as many weeks as I could.

I ultimately found that items like fresh fruits and vegetables were a commodity I could barely afford — even to feed just myself. I resorted to highly processed dried foods: ramen noodles, canned soup and felt lucky that I knew how to hydrate dried beans and cook rice.

I barely made it through one week.

Thanksgiving is approaching and I’ve decided that I will help alleviate hunger in my community by setting up food donation boxes at my school, my place of internship and my place of employment. Hunger is a very real thing and I hope that as we give thanks for the things that we have this coming holiday season we can stop and give what we have in excess to those who truly need assistance and community support.

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