Food Stamp Challenge and Hospital Food
I deeply apologize for seeming to have fallen off the face of the Earth. Last Thursday, about an hour after my last post, I had to rush my husband to the Emergency Room of our local hospital where we were told that his appendix had just ruptured. He was immediately admitted to the hospital and scheduled for surgery first thing Friday morning. Tears rolled down my cheeks while I flagged down nurses that night as my husband’s hands took on a yellow hue and his fever began to rise. When his temperature soared to 105 Degrees later that night, I covered him with ice cold wash cloths and more tears as we anxiously waited for his surgeon to return a call to the nurse’s station authorizing a simple dose of Tylenol… a 2 hour long process.
The next few days were a harrowing blur, the successful surgery, a very painful recovery, and hours spent doing nothing, but standing at my husband’s bedside stroking his face with my cool fingertips, wishing there was something I could do to help alleviate some of his pain… I stayed with him the whole time with the exception of going home twice for a shower and clean clothes. Thankfully, we are home now and the worst is over, but we are both exhausted and according to the surgeon, my husband still has several days of recovery ahead of him.
Needless to say, we will be postponing our participation in The Food Stamp Challenge as my husband recovers. Right now my focus is on making sure that he has a good selection of wholesome, balanced, and nutritious foods to choose from as his body recovers, something I truly don’t believe I could do on a Food Stamp Budget…
However, even though the challenge is on hold, it has not been very far from my mind and as a matter of fact, it is more in the forefront then it ever was before. During our stay at the hospital, I gained an even more troubling perspective concerning the Food Stamp Challenge and the budget involved.
Meandering through the hospital this past week, I could not help, but notice that the working poor consistently out numbered the middle class in the Emergency Room. They filled most of the waiting room chairs and were often the most desperate among those seeking medical attention. Quietly I wondered how many of them were there due to illness caused by a hard life magnified by poor nutrition. My heart ached every time I walked through that section of the hospital and their faces haunted me every time I went down to the hospital cafeteria for a bite to eat, a place were many of them were no where to be found…
As I scanned the menu boards, I realized just how hard it would be to eat or feed your family a well balanced meal with a Food Stamp Budget of no more then $1 per meal. As I filled my cafeteria tray up with food that I would typically snub my nose at, I was struck with a deep sense of gratitude that not only could I afford to choose the best of the worst, but that I could afford it at all… This inspired me to see what I could find to eat for lunch if all I had was no more then $1 in my pocket.
Thankfully hospital food is fairly inexpensive, so my mission was not impossible. However, eating for a dollar proved to be a quite a challenge and I found that my budget did not allow me the simple “luxury” of being able to incorporate something from each of the four food groups.
Looking for items that would help sustain and hold me to the next meal, I chose:
$0.20 A salad plate with 1 leaf of lettuce, 1 slice of tomato, and enough raw onion to give me dragon breath for a week. (YUCK!)
$0.64 for 3.2 Ounces of Tuna Salad @ $0.20 a pound
$0.12 1 Slice of over processed Whole Wheat Bread
$0.15 Cup of ice water
2 Mints compliments of the cafeteria
Total Cost~ $1.11
Obviously, I was over budget and probably should have sought out a water fountain for water (ICK!) or gone without that 1 slice of bread. I could not afford to add any dairy items to this meal, if you can even call it a meal to begin with… If I was completely reliant on Food Stamps, it would mean that I now only had $0.89 to pay for my next meal… Walking away from the cash register, I was astounded. I could not even begin to imagine how I could begin to fill up on that amount…
As for the food, the tuna was surprisingly good, but 3 oz was not very much and looking at it on my plate made me feel as if I were eating like I was anorexic. I found I had to spread it out thinly across my single leaf of lettuce to make it look like more then it actually was. The tomato was what you would expect for a tomato in Ohio this time of year and the raw onions… Bleck! As for the Whole Wheat Bread, I saved it for last hoping that breaking off small little pieces and eating them slowly would help stave off my hunger for the rest of the afternoon. Closing my eyes ready to savor it, I opened my mouth and took my first bite…
Nothing could have prepared me for how bad it was… Just one bite seemed to displace all of the moisture in my mouth and immediately made me wish I could afford to refill my water just to wash it down. To be honest, I could not bring myself to finish it and before the next meal, I was back down in that cafeteria looking for something to fill me up and help me maintain my energy level till dinner. This made me feel guilty, but it also motivated me to find a way to help those whom I have no doubt, have gone hungry for days while staying at the hospital with a loved one.
Compiled with the concern for a hospitalized family member, the hardship of lost wages, fear of the exorbitant cost of medical care without good health insurance, and the grim implications the impact a hospital stay would have on the family unit, it must feel like the last nail in the coffin to suffer from hunger pains as well… This is something I find to be an atrocity in a country known as a “Super Power” through most of the world.
So, as I begin to seek out ways to reach out to those in my community who need a helping hand, I can not help but wonder how many are equally as hungry in yours… Together, what do you think we can do to help?