NWA Poverty Challenge: Brook Thomas

My Family Tackles Hunger

We were sitting in a corner booth at Onyx Coffee Lab early one morning and talking about poverty. I was sipping my coffee and listening intently to the two fantastic ladies from the United Way of Northwest Arkansas as they passionately outlined the need for our community to recognize children – here – are going hungry. And that’s when it struck me. What the hell do I know about hunger?

My little girl is three. She’s growing up in the same community I grew up in and I’m proud of that fact. As any normal parent might desire, I want her to never know what it feels like to go hungry. But that is a hard reality for many right here in Northwest Arkansas. According to the United Way, more than 26,000 kids in NWA live in poverty. That’s 1 in 4. And the situation isn’t getting any better.

As these thoughts percolated in my mind, the United Way duo wrapped up their pitch about needing people (hopefully some of my news team) to sign up for the United Way Poverty Challenge. My immediate response…

I’ll do it.

Of course, I had to go home and explain to my wife, Meredith, what I was wanting to subject our family to…but she consented. If I’m doing the math correctly, $5 per day per person means my household gets $105 for all our food Sunday-Saturday. That’s me, Meredith and our three-year-old little girl, Adelaide.

In our household, I’m usually the grocery shopper and the cook. We already outline our meals for the week and I go shopping on Saturday mornings with Adelaide in tow…the best helper ever. Ever since I signed up – I’ve been contemplating our meal plan.

I’m actually not too worried about the meals. We’re already rather simple in our approach to meals. That’s something I’ll be leaning on in the coming days.

What I’m worried about are our vices and the “extras” you don’t think about.

Vices – number one for me would be beer. I like a cold beer with my dinner. I often don’t have more than two per night. But still, that’s a hefty expense on a tight budget. Also, I like a diet soda with my lunch. We have coffee in the morning with sweetener and half & half. Meredith likes raw honey, blueberries and walnuts on her yogurt. She also likes V8 with her lunch. And, if you know Meredith, you know sweets are her number one vice.

Then there’s the other “stuff”. I know this isn’t counted in part of the challenge but it matters in real life. We have a dog and two cats. Their food and treats can add up as extra costs. Then there’s toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, lotion, makeup, laundry detergent, dish soap, bath wash, chewing gum…etc…etc. The list goes on and on.

So, my goal is to come in under the budgeted amount. My theory is the extra funds left over would go towards the other stuff. You don’t need to purchase most of those items but once a month. I’d also assume pets and vices are a luxury. If, in the end, the stockpiled money can’t cover their costs – they’d go.

The plan is in place. Tomorrow my helper, Adelaide, and I will head to the grocery store to see what we learn. I will document the experience in our home. And like most parents – Meredith and I will make sure we go hungry before our sweet Adelaide ever feels what an empty stomach is like. #NWAPovertyChallenge

–Brook Thomas, News Director, KNWA

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