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What I Learned from the SNAP Challenge

Four dollars.  On Duke’s campus, that could get you a single bowl of soup at the Loop.  Most of us spend far more than four dollars on each meal we eat, with Duke’s minimum meal plan allotting $20 per day.  However, for a great number of North Carolinians, four dollars is all they have to feed themselves each and every day.  Four dollars is the daily allowance given by North Carolina’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, also formerly known as Food Stamps.  In the month of October in Durham County alone, over 44,000 individuals were utilizing SNAP.  Hunger and concern for where one’s next meal will come from is a daily reality for too many. 

 

To shed light on how challenging it can be to eat on so restricted a budget, I chose to participate in the Duke SNAP Challenge, hosted this past Wednesday through Friday by UCAE.  Armed with my $12, I started my challenge at Harris Teeter, knowing there’d be no way to feed myself on food points with so little.  Despite not having much to spend, that trip to the grocery store was one of the longest I’ve taken in a while.  Instead of mindlessly browsing the aisles, sipping my Starbucks and throwing whatever looked good into my cart, I spent over an hour scouring the weekly coupon flyer and scanning the shelves for special savings offers.  I stood in front of the canned goods for over five minutes, adding together different totals in my head to find the best deal.  I circled through the store at least twice, having to take some things back out of my basket to stay under budget and sadly avoiding the fresh produce section in favor of the quantity I could purchase in boxes and cans.  At the register, I ended up with a large container of oatmeal, two bags of frozen vegetables, three bananas, two large cans of chicken, a jar of applesauce, two boxes of rice and beans mix, and 70 cents left over.  For the three days of the challenge, my single bag of groceries allowed me a banana and a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast each morning and a serving of veggies with a bowl of beans, rice, and chicken for each lunch and dinner.  In between meals, I snacked occasionally out of my applesauce jar. 

 

By Friday evening I was in no way starving, but after three days of eating the same three, simple meals, I couldn’t help but think of the variety I would be able to indulge in over the weekend after the challenge was over.  I quickly caught myself though as I remembered that what I was treating as a 72-hour “challenge” is a reality that over 1.5 million North Carolinians face 365 days out of the year.  While I pile up my veggies in the salad bar line at Penn and swipe my DukeCard at the register without even asking about my total, thousands of families are struggling to put a meal on the table for dinner, let alone three daily nutritious and balanced ones.  It’s so easy to fall into the habits of mindless consumption and instant gratification, taking for granted the convenience and variety of food we have surrounding us at Duke.  We are quick to grumble about the ABP sandwich line but we fail to recognize that it’s a privilege just to be able to satisfy an afternoon snack craving, that the latte so many of us have consumed before 9am costs more than what a fellow Durhamite might be able to spend on food all day.  We’re constantly complaining to one another about how much stress we’re under with all of our exams and final papers, but imagine adding to that the stress of meticulously pinching every penny just to afford lunch, of getting nervous every time you approach the register because maybe you’ll have to leave the line to put something back, of not being able to focus on your work because your stomach is growling but eating is not an option. 

 

I’ll be the first to shamefully admit that I fall into these habits and make these complaints all too regularly.  I also know my mere participation in the SNAP challenge does nothing to change the face of hunger in North Carolina or the daily lived realities of SNAP enrollees.  It’s what happens now that the challenge is over that matters – approaching my meals with more mindfulness and gratitude, trying harder to eliminate my food waste, spending my food points more sparingly so I can also buy food to donate to Durham’s local food pantries and soup kitchens.  As we approach the holiday season, a time that too often celebrates consumption over concern for others, I would invite all of you to do your own SNAP challenge.  Or even better, volunteer to take action against hunger in Durham or your hometown.  At the very least, challenge yourself to be more mindful and thankful – so when you go to post that foodstagram of your Thanksgiving plate with your #blessed caption, think twice about how fortunate we truly are.  

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Student Health Closing Early 11/20

The Student Health Center will close at 3:45pm on Thursday, 11/20. We will re-open with normal operating hours at 8:30am on Friday, 11/21.

For after hours care, please call us at 919-681-9355. 

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Frienships, Stuck on the Disney Channel

(Entry #3 in the series) Recently, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Associate Director for Outreach and Development Programming for CAPS and all-around nice guy Gary Glass. The topic: relationships. Relationships in general, with no particular person in mind. It was the first time I'd discussed the topic at length, ever. My conclusion? We should do this more often. Here's #3! Read entries #1 and #2.

It was 2007. Gary stood with a group of students, asking them to move to the “True” or “False” side of the room in response to a few statements.

If a peer had been struggling, you’d want them to know they could come to you.
Everyone in the room moved to “True” side of the room.

If you were struggling, you would go to a peer for support.
Everyone in the room moved to the “False” side of the room.

Well that’s awkward. Everyone wanted to help. No one wanted to ask for help.

Fast forward to 2014 where, fortunately, some things have changed. We still have great people on campus. And we definitely, definitely still have problems (though you probably didn’t need me to tell you that). The difference, according to Gary? We’re admitting it now.  

Woohoo personal issues!!!!

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes the best way to get rid of a problem is pretend it doesn’t exist. You’ve just been dumped, and you don’t want to give the satisfaction to that @$#&%! that you’re thinking about him/her enough to feel sad? Fake the pride and self-preservation. It will feel real soon enough. Or how about the oh-so-relatable experience of conversing in small talk (more like “ugh” talk) during SLG/Sorority/Fraternity Rush? Fake the confidence. It's not really fake confidence. It’s in there somewhere (and for good reason).

But sometimes you can’t fake it to make it. You have to dive in—heart first, fear second—with a trusted friend by your side. Gary told me that a healthy relationship had “mutual vulnerability.” Maybe another way to think about it is that happy, healthy relationships have, by definition, unhappy moments. Without that, they’d be stuck on the Disney channel.

I’ll end with a moment.

It was the night that commemorated my brother’s death. And still, 11 years later, the day shook 20-year-old me more than the 9-year-old me could have imagined. The tears came slowly at first. I wiped them away. Would my Duke friends even get it? Probably not. But all the same, the tears became many. And I sobbed. For a long time. And sure, perhaps they didn’t “know” what I was feeling. And I imagine they were uncomfortable, or at a minimum lost for words. But they held me. They heard me. And they loved me through every moment of that pain.

They’ve been my best friends ever since.

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Happy (Healthy) Holidays!

It’s mid-November – chances are you’ve adapted pretty well to your school eating routines by now – whether it’s eating with friends or grabbing a bite on the way to the next class or meeting. But wouldn’t you know it, the holidays are just around the corner and everything is about to change again.  The holidays can be a wonderful time of year, but they are usually associated with a lot of food and eating: for some this can be challenging. Consider using some of the following tips to stay well and focused during this time.

  1. Set reasonable goals. This usually isn’t the time of year to work on any type of weight loss goals, so aim instead to maintain your weight.
  2. Try not to let yourself get too hungry. Your holiday meal will likely have a bunch of delicious foods to indulge in. Before you head out, try to eat a light, balanced snack, such as a piece of fruit with some yogurt or peanut butter, a granola bar, half of a sandwich, or some soup about an hour before leaving. That way you have better control over food selections and portion sizes at the party.
  3. Avoid skipping meals. We may think skipping meals is a good idea when we know we have a big holiday meal to look forward to, but chances are if you skip meals you will be over hungry when it’s meal time and will likely overeat.
  4. Choose your foods wisely: There will be plenty of options, but if you’re trying to choose healthier options, choose more of the fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and seafood. This will allow room for a holiday dessert!
  5. Mindful Eating: If you are concerned about overeating, remember to eat slowly and savor these special holiday foods – some of which you only get to eat once a year. Eating slowly will allow you to appreciate these foods and recognize when you’re full. A helpful tip to eat slower is to have a conversation with a friend or family member, take smaller portions, and consciously sip your drink throughout. (This is a great tip year-round!)
  6. Eat a balanced meal: Aim for a good source of protein, such as turkey, chicken, fish and tofu, and balance it with a healthy starch, such as whole grain bread, sweet potatoes or brown rice. The protein slows digestion to help you feel satisfied, and keep you fuller longer.
  7. Chill out: Try to not get stressed out by family and friends you haven’t seen in a while. Try to manage your stress with activities other than eating – take a walk, visit a friend, or put on some music.
  8. Exercise: You may find being home for holidays allows you more time to move – try to get exercise most mornings before the days get too crazy. Even a brisk walk or stroll will help with digestion, stress relief, and fitness. However, don’t overdo just because you have more time. Remember, if you wish to continue exercising regularly, it will need to fit into your routine at school.
  9. Enjoy: remember being home for the holidays usually means no homework! Focus on your friends and family and try to not over-think your food.
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I had never heard the word “sucks” so many times in 30-seconds

Post #2 in the series. Recently, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Associate Director for Outreach and Development Programming for CAPS and all-around nice guy Gary Glass. The topic: relationships. Relationships in general, with no particular person in mind. It was the first time I'd discussed the topic at length, ever. My conclusion? We should do this more often. I wrote one entry already. Read post #1.

One of the joys to living in a dorm with thin walls, as I did my freshman year, is that you could innocently eavesdrop on whatever conversation topics your neighbors chose to shout about. Yes, I mean shout. After all, inside voices are so pre-school.

Anyways, one exchange (“conversation” hardly feels appropriate) was particularly memorable because I had never heard the word “sucks” so many times in a 30-second period. Apparently, some guy had screwed up. Big time.

An excerpt:
He sucks. Oh my god, he SUCKS…..[pause]….. HE. SUCKS. ….[pause]…. Sucksucksucksucksucks. He sucks more than anyone ever has. …[pause] SUCKS!

Though I couldn’t stop laughing that fateful fall afternoon, I can hardly criticize my neighbors’ attempt to articulate the dynamics of what was clearly, wait for it, a sucky relationship. It would be hypocritical of me. As a junior, 3 years later, it can still be hard for me to come to peace with relationships, platonic or not, that just feel and turn meh. Maybe they hurt. Maybe they sour. Or maybe it’s nothing you can identify. It just feels off.

Cue the wisdom of Gary Glass.

“The language I use for that is failed vs. ended relationships,” he told me. “I define a failed relationship as one in which a person didn’t learn anything about themselves, or about relationships. There was no growth. Other relationships, there is learning about myself or the other person. It ran its course, and it ended. But these are clarifying. They build a sense of resilience because they hurt, and you heal from the hurt.”

So to all the Dukies out there who might feel in a funk: Just remember, no matter how much it may sting, that relationship you’re hurting from was hardly lost time, so long as you grow from it.

Let yourself hurt. Let yourself learn.

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Duke Common Experience, Class of 2019

Nominations are now being accepted for the Class of 2019 Duke Common Experience. As a piece of the coming changes to Orientation this summer, we have decided to enhance our Summer Reading program. While we will still have a book the incoming class will read, there will be a variety of programs connected to the book both during the summer and over the course of the fall semester. These will include:

  • ​Virtual content sharing of key themes and ideas over the summer months
  • Connection with Alumni Affairs in reading the selection
  • Speakers and programs during the year connected to the selection
  • One over-arching theme that connects the selection to programs here at Duke during the year

However, the biggest change is the format for hosting the author and discussion about the book and what we seek to do over the summer.

When students come to campus, instead of relying solely on FAC chats, our plan it to co-host a program at DPAC. We are excited about this new programming opportunity and see it as a chance to enhance our current DPAC program, add to the intellectual experience of the summer reading, and allow us to choose different types of books that can then be highlighted and/or performed for the incoming class.

As a reminder, the text selected for The Duke Common Experience is designed to give incoming students a shared intellectual connection with other members of their class. The selection committee who will choose the text is comprised of faculty, staff, and students.
In addition to being readable, enjoyable and engaging, the selection must:

  • Enrich the intellectual life of students
  • Promote a shared/common experience among first-year students
  • Prompt stimulating debate and lively discussion outside of the classroom
  • Foster interaction between and among peers

Suggestions for books can be made online at the fo​llowing website:
https://duke.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_dmsg2fhSFgUAHwV

Nominations will be taken through Friday, November 15th. Please feel free to suggest as many books as you'd like and pass along this message to students, faculty and other staff.

Thank you for your support of Duke's continual development of Orientation Week, the first year experience of our students and our collaboration with campus and community partners.

​Jordan Hale and Simon Partner
Co-Chairs, Duke Summer Reading Committee

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Smile Your Way to Staying Well

You’ve heard it circulating for weeks now like bad background music – the symphony of sneezes in your stat lecture, the cacophony of coughs in comp-sci, the serenade of sniffles on the C1.  Everywhere you turn, Duke seems to be coming down with something, be it the never-ending cold, the dreaded flu, or some unnamed combination of sore throat, runny nose, and congestion.  Toss in the stress of impending midterms and busy weekend plans and it may seem imminent that you’ll be next in line at Student Health.  But before you get too resigned to the idea of getting sick this season, remember to SMILE and follow these tips for keeping your immune system in top shape:

Sleep – Getting a full night’s worth of shut-eye is important for fighting off sickness.  Sleeping less than the recommended 8 hours per night has been shown to reduce your immune resistance and make you more susceptible to contagious illnesses like the flu.  While it may sometimes seem impossible to get enough sleep with a heavy Duke workload, prioritizing a good night’s sleep will make you healthier, happier, and more productive during the day.  

Move – Aim for 30-60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week to keep your stress levels low and your immunity high.  Those who are regularly physically active are less susceptible to upper respiratory infections and colds.  More is not always better, however, as over-exercise or strenuous exercise while sick can lead to increased fatigue and vulnerability to bacteria and illness.  Listen to your body when deciding on your workout day-to-day.  Just going for a walk can improve your mood and immunity! 

Invest in Rest & Well-Being – If you’re already feeling under the weather, give yourself and your body a break. Take conscious time to care for yourself physically and mentally – let yourself nap, take a break from the gym, get plenty of fluids and nutrients, stay in on the weekend to watch a movie, read a book, or catch up on sleep.  It’s easy to get caught up in the fast pace of life at Duke, but making an effort to slow down once in a while can have great benefits for your stress levels and your immune system. 

Lots of Soap! – Washing your hands frequently, especially before eating, is the most important thing you can do to prevent getting sick.  Keep hand sanitizer accessible, but also be sure to wash with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.  Washing between your fingers and under your nails is also important to eliminate illness-causing germs and bacteria.

Eat your Fruits, Veggies & Fats – Eating 5-9 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables every day will provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to best fight disease and infection.  Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, nuts, and flax seeds are also crucial to stimulating your white blood cells that literally eat up germs!

With a little extra mindfulness put towards your physical and mental wellbeing, you’ll greatly increase your chances of staying cold and flu-free this fall and winter.  Aim to be your healthiest and happiest self this season and you’ll no doubt reap the benefits in your studies and your social life - it’s an investment well worth your while.   

 

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