Have you ever stood in a grocery store wondering how you were going to provide enough food for your family on $30 a month? Have you ever traveled all the way to a soup kitchen that wasn’t even open, or lost precious time in a waiting room to find out that you don’t qualify for SNAP benefits?
I’m lucky; I haven’t. But, I know a lot of students who have. That’s because we’ve had a lot of students come to the Regional Food Bank to participate in our 15-minute hunger simulation over the last few weeks.
Though a hunger simulation may sound like an act of deprivation, it’s really more an exercise in frustration. That’s the way I like it. I greet classes that have decided to come to the Food Bank for this excellent field trip experience and I smile big and tell them how happy I am that they came. It’s true, too. I am happy that they came. And I am happy that they are about to be frustrated.
I don’t want it to seem like I take general pleasure in other people’s stress and anxiety because normally I don’t. I make an exception for the students participating in our hunger simulation because while they are brooding over budgets, sweating in the SNAP office, and anguishing over the mock month that is quickly ticking to a close, I know that they are experiencing something important. They are experiencing the reality of hunger.
And I hope that when we finish the exercise and I tell them that over 600,000 Oklahomans live with food insecurity, they know what that means and what it feels like. I hope they make the connection that many of those Oklahomans are very like the personas they took on for the hunger simulation – regular people just trying their best to get by.
That’s why I feel a small surge of satisfaction every time I see a student throw his or her hands up in front of our fake soup kitchen’s closed sign because I hope that frustrated student understands, at least a little, what it’s like to live with hunger every day.