Hunger on a Budget

Umas meals for the day

Linnea Johansson

Uma’s meals for the day

Uma Nachiappan, Writer

Food. It is the energy-providing life essential that everyone deserves to have, but can be often taken for granted by those who have it in abundance. Imagine what it would be like if you had a strict budget that limited the amount of food you ate each day.

Your parent may already do this and you don’t know it and for millions of America, this is a daily fact of life and the same is true for many other people all over the world.

Last week, I conducted an experiment that helped me fully understand this serious issue. I was given only five dollars to purchase toward all three of my meals for the day.

While shopping, I was surprised with my options for meals. In the end, I purchased:

  • a small box of microwaveable oatmeal and a banana for breakfast
  • a box of microwaveable mac-and-cheese for lunch
  • and a can of plain chicken broth for dinner.

Throughout the day, I was extremely hungry, and it was nearly impossible to restrict myself from eating any other snack items. I was also very sluggish throughout the day. I realized how valuable each meal is and that people should not have to live with hunger.

According to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, the recipient of Millburn Middle School’s Thanksgiving canned food drive, about 17% of children in NJ face hunger on a daily basis. The group Feeding America estimates that in 2015:

42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.

Many families cannot afford daily necessities, including meals, despite working extra hours. Some people only have $77 dollars a week for everything, including utilities, transportation, and daily meals, because they can only earn minimum wage. However, the cost of food that provides nutrition for only one parent and one child is $105. Compared to $77 per week for all essentials, this amount is very surprising. More than a million people in this state do not know where their next meal is coming from, and this shows that food insecurity is a serious and real problem that needs to be stopped.

Thankfully, many organizations and food banks are working hard to provide families with a steady food supply. The Community Food Bank of NJ has provided 600 million pounds of edible provisions since 1982. This food bank, along with the Heifer International, (another charity MMS peer leaders work with) have been giving families ways to make their own meals, such as farming and domesticating livestock. Mrs. Kirk, a teacher in our school, advisor to the PLOP peer leader group, and organizer of the Thanksgiving Assembly here, estimates groups in the school have been helping these organizations for more than ten years.

Mrs. Kirk thinks that it is difficult for even adults to understand that people are working hard, but are still unable to afford basic needs. “Food is essential for kids,” she said. Mrs. Kirk believes a balanced diet can help the brain and body develop properly, and give children the energy to learn and avoid sickness. She stated, “Food is not a luxury. No person should have to go hungry.”

Many people living in Millburn could probably not even imagine eating all three meals for only 5 dollars, as many people do. I was able to experience this hardship and became more aware of the issue that is plaguing not only many citizens of New Jersey, but also in the world.

I don’t yet know how to better solve the issue of food insecurity, but I am always hoping that fewer children and adults have to survive with this burden in the future. Many New Jersey people need the help of others to live a healthy life with enough energy and maybe this story can motivate readers to donate more, beyond the Thanksgiving season, like attending SOAR’s Empty Bowls in March.

Food. Everyone deserves this necessity, although it is can easily be taken for granted, though not by me anymore.