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It’s My Turn to Give Back

When I was a kid, my family needed help and organizations like the Foodbank were there for us. Now it’s my turn to give back.

This past weekend, I participated in my second food fair with the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

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This time, I donated my time on behalf of the Friends of the Foodbank, a new group of professionals committed to volunteering and representing the Foodbank at community events.

The Foodbank partnered with one of their partner agencies, a church in Washington, Mo., to provide almost 20,000 pounds of food to more than 130 families in need. Read more

Surviving on $35

SNAP CHALLENGE

Canned tuna fills the shelves at a local Save-A-Lot store / Photo by Bethany Prange

Can you feed yourself for $35 a week?

When I heard that Anytime Fitness was sponsoring the “Survive on 35” challenge, I was intrigued.

The goal was to encourage people to eat healthy on a budget, and to bring awareness to hunger issues.

They chose $35 because that is the average amount a person receives through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

I knew that eating on $35 a week would be tough, but I was confident I could do it. I had an even smaller budget when I was in college, living on my own and making a fraction of my current income.

I also grew up in a large family where we purchased most of our food from discount grocers. My parents taught me how to be a thrifty shopper.

By the end of the challenge, I managed to just stay under my budget and I did come up with some tasty, nutritious meals. For me, this was a seven-day experiment that taught me a few lessons in frugal eating.

But for others, this is an everyday reality. This challenge truly opened my eyes to why so many struggle each day to provide food for their families.

• You can live on $35/week, but you’ll need transportation. To stretch my grocery budget, I drove past my usual grocery stories to shop at Walmart. Driving a few extra minutes was easy with a car, but if I didn’t have a means of transportation, I don’t know if I could have afforded to eat three meals a day.

• Eating out is a luxury you can’t afford when you’re on a strict budget. When you break down $35 per week it comes to just around $1.66 per meal. This means you have to plan out all your meals. Want to meet up with a friend for lunch? Forget it – unless you want to go hungry the rest of the week.

• It’s often easier and cheaper to eat unhealthy meals than it is to make highly nutritious, healthy meals. Ramen noodle cups were a staple of my lunch diet six years ago. This time around, sticking to a budget was much more difficult when I couldn’t offset it with 25 cent meals.

• Free food becomes a welcome treat. I’m extremely fortunate to work for a company that provides bread and bakery items to its employees. Some days I walk right past the food without glancing at it. When you’re on such a tight budget, you accept food whenever and wherever it’s available.

• You sacrifice convenience when you’re on a budget. I cooked more during this week than I normally do during a month. If I were working multiple jobs to support a family, it would be difficult to find time to prepare meals.

The goal of this challenge was to demonstrate ways to eat healthy on a tight budget. But more importantly, I think it also highlighted the tough decisions people have to make every day.

Yes, you can eat for $35 a week but you also need other resources such as transportation, basic cooking skills and time.

So if you ever come across a food drive for the St. Louis Area Foodbank and wonder if your donation of a few canned goods or $5 is going to make a difference, you can rest assured it will!

Patricia Lee

 

Patricia Lee is social media manager at Panera Bread and is a St. Louis Area Foodbank Social Media Avenger

Volunteering Your Talent

Social Media Avengers

The question came in October.

“Would you be interested in joining a ‘social media avengers-type’ of volunteer group that would use your social media connections to raise awareness about the Foodbank?”

The proposal arrived via Twitter DM and email from Bethany Prange, communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

My answer?

“No, I want to join a volunteer group actually called the Social Media Avengers!”

Volunteering for a good cause + social media + awesome superhero name?

I’m in.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank does amazing work in the St. Louis area. The need is staggering, and so is the effort they put forth.

One thing I know from experience: it is very difficult to run a nonprofit. There is never enough money, time or resources to do all the good you want to do, and that can weigh heavily on both the employees of the organization and the people they serve.

Nonprofits like the Foodbank need our help in so many ways: donations, on-site volunteers, great board members, dedicated employees, corporate support, and the list goes on. So what can one person do to help?

In my case, the answer was social media.

As a well-known new media strategist based here in St. Louis, I try to support all things local via my Twitter account and my blog. http://www.rizzotees.com/blog/about-chris-reimer

Bethany had likely noticed this, and instead of hoping I’d continue to retweet them, she reached out and made the ask. She told me of her plan to create a group of people like me (heavy users of social media) to help raise awareness and visibility of the Foodbank.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to be asked to help.

Within a few weeks, a group of us gathered at the Foodbank in Bridgeton. We determined our strengths, defined our mission and named ourselves the Social Media Avengers.

True, we are avenging nothing. But it does sound very cool.

Each member of the group brings their own unique talent to the table, whether it be blogging, marketing knowledge, Twitter prowess, networking skills or event planning.

Although social media is in our name, the concept isn’t just to have a group of social media mavens retweeting every time the Foodbank updates their status.

The Foodbank folks hope to build a team of creative individuals from various fields within the community. The idea is that these volunteers will tap into their knowledge, networks and talents to find new and better ways to increase hunger awareness, and ultimately, help provide more food for families in need.

The beauty of volunteering in this way is that you are contributing to a good cause from your own area of strength. And therefore, you can make a big difference in a short amount of time.

Frankly, I don’t do enough volunteering. Lack of time, focus on job and family – I have all the normal excuses. So I’m trying to find a way to help.

That’s my challenge to you. Find a way to help.

Whatever touches you in life, whether it be hunger, autism, cancer or animal abuse – start chipping away at the problem now. Once you realize that giving is what really fills up your cup in life, you will find a way to help the human race and you’ll feel more fulfilled and happy than you ever thought possible.

If you would like to join our group, contact Bethany at bprange@stlfoodbank.org or on Twitter - @stlfoodbank.

    Chris Reimer is the Vice President of Social Media at Falk Harrison.  Find him on Twitter - @RizzoTees