My family loves food. We love the colors and smells in a grocery stores. We love to cook and share meals with others. We love taking pictures of food and we love to eat! As I accept this challenge, I am both excited and a little anxious. Always a problem solver, I look forward to seeing how creative I can be in creating nutritious meals. Though in the back of my mind, I wonder if can I truly eat healthy for $5 a day?
I’ve had the privilege of serving on mission teams in some of the poorer sections of Nicaragua, Mexico and India. Most meals were comprised of rice and beans, a few vegetables and almost no meat. The meals were high in carbs, but I wanted to see if I could create more nutritious meals. With 1 in 4 children living in poverty in NWA, it is imperative they have access to healthy food options. Research has repeatedly revealed that children who are not well-nourished, especially during their first years of life, experience physical health issues, as well as diminished abilities to learn, communicate, socialize effectively and adapt to new environments and people. Children are the future to our vibrant community and having access to healthy food is the first line of defense against numerous childhood diseases and learning deficits.
In preparing for the week, I spent an hour reviewing the grocery store circulars in my newspaper to see what was on sale and to clip some coupons. Because I am doing this as a solo challenge, I quickly realized I could not fully take advantage of bulk pricing. To make the most of my $5/day and coupons, I would have to focus on canned goods, pasta/rice and frozen foods. Like my mission trip experiences, chicken, dairy, and fresh fruits and vegetables will be very limited. It will be interesting to see how much I can truly afford, once I’m in the checkout line.
As I thought about my trip to the grocery store, I also thought about the single mother living in poverty. Even if she planned a week of healthy meals, what are the other challenges she faces in securing the food? Does she have a car or will she have to use mass transportation? Are healthy food options even available or does she live in a “food desert”?
I am blessed to be joining United Way of NWA in this challenge. My hope is that the experience will open my heart and mind even more to the issues surrounding children and families living in poverty. Additionally, I hope it will stimulate new ways of thinking how we can collectively work together to alleviate poverty for the children and families in NWA
–Melody Timinsky, United Way of Northwest Arkansas Advocate