The $4 a Day Challenge, Day Four: Somebody Please Shoot Me

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Beans and rice! Its whats for dinner (and lunch).
  • Beans and rice! It's what's for dinner (and lunch).

What is freedom? Is it the right to think what you want, say what you want, sleep with who you want? Does it include eating what you want or participating in social activities? And how is any of this related to the fact that I am fucking starving and about to jump ship on this ridiculous $4 a day food challenge?

What I've realized is that without the freedom to eat what you want you are often ostracized from social activities. No lunches out. No after-work beers or appetizers. No pitching in for the coffee run while your coworkers chirp and skip down the hallway with fists full of money. You couldn't even afford to have somebody over for supper on this budget, unless your dinner date was o.k. with noodles and butter. Instead, you end up alone with a Tupperware of beans and rice like some sort of a leper. I wish I was kidding, but it actually feels a little bit like that. Food in this culture is as much about socializing as anything else, and if you don't have the cash for it, you don't get to play. It's as simple as that.

And, honestly, $20 a week doesn't really buy anything. Sure, I've got pancake mix, but I couldn't afford syrup. The jalapenos I bought are wilted - I'm totally eating them tonight anyway - and it takes three hours to cook the beans so I have something to put on the tortillas. The bananas are browning; the garlic is holding up pretty well. Technically I still have 70 cents left in my budget, so I guess I could actually afford a tomato for the top of my bean tacos, but it would cost me $2 in gas to go to the store. Being poor sucks. Period. Actually, exclamation mark.

How did it become like this? People freak out if you even hint at taking their guns away, yet families can have their ability to nourish themselves snagged away by tragedy and poverty and nobody gives a shit but a few non-profits and programs like SNAP, which nurse them along on an endless wave of just-getting-by. It's a shame. I'm all for the idea of people working hard to get what they want, but forcing people to live on this budget is wrong. It's like a war of attrition against the poor, but what if the poor lose? I keep wondering if these are the sort of "entitlement" programs the Republicans keep talking about, because I just don't feel very entitled right now.

Anyway, I've got beans to soak and minutes to count until this whole ordeal is over. It's only been four days. To all of the people struggling to get by, please know that, in my own very small way, I get it right now. You deserve better. That is all.

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