Students in the STAR Guides Wilderness Program are issued new rations of food twice weekly–on Mondays and on Thursdays. A typical food drop consists of receiving new supplies of rice, lentils, beans, potatoes, oats, canned tuna, peanut butter, dried vegetables, fresh fruit, powdered milk, wheat flour, cheese and trail mix.
Food drop days quickly become the most anticipated days of the week as students look forward to what the next food drop will bring. For most youth in the program, this is the first time in their lives they have had to worry about food other than opening the fridge or pantry to find something easy to eat as prior to entering the program, food had always been something they took for granted.
During the first few weeks, often students will struggle to use will power and good judgement when it comes to how they ration their food. It is not uncommon for a newer student to eat their entire ration of peanut butter or cheese or trail mix in one setting and then have to go without some of the more appealing foods until the next food drop. Instead of having cheese or peanut better to use with their meals, they find themselves having to eat plain rice or plain oats or plain ash bread because they have already eaten the foods that could have been used to improve the taste if only they had displayed self-discipline or restraint.
As students learn from their mistakes and begin to develop a greater capacity for self-discipline and willpower, they are able to ration food more effectively and begin to enjoy tastier meals and find themselves making it from food drop to food drop eating good meals every day.
These valuable lessons in will power and self-discipline from rationing food are then able to be applied to other areas of life, particularly for youth struggling with compulsive sexual behavior and addiction. Developing the ability to put off cravings, urges and temptations is an essential skill that is often lost with the onset of addiction. Time in the wilderness allows a teen to begin to redevelop will power and self-discipline once again.
Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.