Throughout Georgia, over 1.4 million people suffer from food insecurity and are compensated with federal nutrition assistance. This lack of stability can be linked to poverty, obesity and other diet-related illnesses. To combat these struggles, Wholesome Wave Georgia has sought out to increase Georgians’ accessibility to fresh, healthy and locally grown food options.
One benefit largely distributed to those suffering from food insecurity is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP, which aims to supplement the food budget of those in need. For over 40 years, SNAP has served as the nation’s first line of defense against hunger and food insecurity for low-income families, according to Wholesome Wave’s website.
To spread awareness of the challenges students on SNAP benefits face when shopping on a fixed grocery budget, Wholesome Wave Georgia has teamed up with two University of Georgia students to shed light on food insecurity throughout Athens' college demographic.
In partnership with Wholesome Wave, UGA students Emmie Harvard and Peyton Walker are taking on the SNAP Instagram challenge. From Dec. 1-5, both students will cook, shop and eat off of a standard SNAP grocery budget of $6.70 per day. Throughout the week, the pair will document their meals on Wholesome Wave’s Instagram page.
Harvard, a senior fine arts major, said her interest sparked in nutritional and locally grown food after she spent a summer working at Diamond Hill Farm. After hearing of the SNAP challenge from her roommate, Harvard said she was intrigued and wanted to get involved with Wholesome Wave in any way she could.
“[This challenge] has made me realize that we should really try harder to feed our neighbors and find ways to help other people become aware of these benefits,” Harvard said.
As a self-proclaimed veggie lover, Harvard did her grocery shopping for the week at the Athens Farmers Market to get fresh and local produce. While doing so, she also received benefits from Wholesome Wave’s Fresh for Less program, which doubles participants’ SNAP benefits when shopping at local farmers markets.
On the contrary, Walker, a sophomore marketing major, was tasked with using her SNAP budget at fast-food restaurants, grocery stores and convenience shops. While doing her shopping, Walker said she had to be conscious of her budget and pick the cheapest options.
“A bunch of fresh options were harder to get because those foods are more expensive than frozen foods,” Walker said. “Making that tradeoff was kind of eye-opening honestly.”
Through this experience, Walker said she realized how easy it may be to overlook the parts of the community suffering from food insecurity. Walker said she wants to use her position as vice president of philanthropy for the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority to spread food insecurity awareness.
Similarly, Harvard said she enjoyed taking part in an initiative that wasn’t associated with UGA. She said she hopes this awareness of food insecurity can spread throughout the student body to shift students’ focus to other parts of the Athens community.
“There’s a lot of students that kind of take over the community in a way so it makes it hard to see all parts of the Athens community,” Harvard said. “I’m hoping my fellow peers may see this [challenge] and realize that they’re only a small part [of the community], and that there's a lot more going on outside of themselves.”