Food stamps are far from an extravagant benefit. The average allocation is $1.40 per person per meal. (Try it some time.)
from Rolling Stone The Republicans’ War on the Poor
My mom friend Stella has convinced me to try the Food Stamp challenge. It’s not about losing weight. It’s about bringing attention to Food Stamps and how politicians want to cut this important social program back. The GOP, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, is waging a war on the poor, pushing to decimate the food-stamp program which benefits the most vulnerable out of sheer spite.
The way the program to provide the poor with the bare minimum of daily nutrition has been handled is a metaphor for how the far right in the House is systematically trying to take down the federal government. Breaking all manner of precedents on a series of highly partisan votes, with the Republicans barely prevailing, the House in September slashed the food-stamp program by a whopping $39 billion and imposed harsh new requirements for getting on, or staying on, the program. The point was to deny the benefit to millions. As recently as the mid-Sixties, actual hunger and starvation existed in this country on a significant scale, particularly in the Deep South and Appalachia.
Food stamps are far from an extravagant benefit. The average allocation is $1.40 per person per meal. So, to bring attention to this important social issue, I told Stella that I would try the Food Stamps Challenge. When I brought this up at a family dinner, there was not much enthusiasm. In fact, several unnamed members of my family were downright hostile. They did not want their food messed with. The idea of trying to live on $1.40 per meal per person was threatening and scary to them. And we were only considering doing this for a week! Our compromise is to make 5 dinners for $1.40 per meal, per person. Stella and I had discussed how school aged children would qualify for a free lunch if we were on food stamps. Breakfast was also tricky because it’s tough to get my kids eat breakfast at all so I’m calculating that they would spend less than the remaining $2.80 on breakfast.
As for myself, I will eliminate the fresh pressed juices I like. And raw milk cheese. That will be hard to give up! I don’t usually eat breakfast and I don’t drink coffee so that helps stay within the SNAP Challenge budget. There is no eating out nor using food in the pantry, fridge or freezer either.
To find frugal recipes for dinner, our Brit friend Lydia, steered us to blog called A Girl Called Jack. Jack is a British single mom who lost her job and somehow managed to make healthy, nutrition meals for herself and her young son on just 10 pounds ($16.42) a week for an entire year! She said she got to know the basics line of her supermarket intimately!
I’m going to start with her Carrot, Cumin & Kidney Bean Soup: 14p
Ingredients, makes 4 generous portions!
1/2 an onion, 9p (18p for 1) Lard, 2p (39p for a block I’m scared to eat too much of)
300g carrots, 15p (75p for 1.5kg) 1 vegetable stock cube, 2p (10p for 6)
Cumin, 10p (50p for a jar)
400g can of red kidney beans, 18p (18p per can)
Chop the onion and add to a medium sized saucepan with carrots and a little lard. Cook on a low heat for a few minutes until going golden on the outside. Add the veg stock cube, 500ml of water and cumin and bring to the boil. Turn down and simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Add the cumin and kidney beans (rinse well if using canned ones) and heat through. Pulse in a blender until smooth. Serve as a soup or pasta sauce. Variations: this works well with coconut milk added and fresh coriander and a spoonful of chilli, but I pared it down for the purpose of cheapness!
She’s published a cookbook!
A Girl Called Jack: 100 Delicious Budget Recipes by Jack Monroe
I’ll post later on the recipes I used, how it went and what the cost was.
Are any of you, dear readers, interested in trying the SNAP Challenge too?
Here are the details:
What is the SNAP Challenge?
The SNAP Challenge encourages participants to get a sense of what life is like for millions of low-income Americans facing hunger. By accepting the SNAP Challenge, you’ll commit to eating all of your meals from a limited food budget comparable to that of a SNAP participant – $1.50 per meal.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) provides monthly benefits to supplement the food budgets of families in need, but in many cases these households still struggle to put food on the table.
While it is impossible to fully comprehend the difficult decisions low-income families face, sharing your experience with the SNAP Challenge will help raise awareness about the issue of hunger in America. I’ve Accepted the Challenge, Now What?
- Choose the duration of your SNAP Challenge. For Hunger Action Month, we are encouraging everyone to take the SNAP Challenge the week of September 15-21, so we can combine our voices on social media for maximum awareness. However, any day or week (or longer!) is great for the SNAP Challenge.
- Your food budget for the week or day of your Challenge will be based on the average SNAP benefit, which is $4.50 per person per day– for ALL your food and beverages. You can use coupons while taking the Challenge but should not shop at membership clubs.
- Using your Challenge budget, decide on groceries to purchase and how much to put aside for food incidentals. Be aware of ALL food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week/day.
- During the Challenge, do not eat food that you purchased prior to starting the challenge.
- Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or while at work.
- Keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of your experiences throughout the week, in particular the choices you made between the variety and quality of food you ate.
- Invite others to join you, including your co-workers, family members, and elected officials.
- Share your SNAP Challenge through social media and by blogging about your experience.
How Do I Share My SNAP Challenge Experience? Maximize your impact by talking about your SNAP Challenge on social media. Below you will find seven prompts, one for each day of a week-long SNAP Challenge experience. Use these as a starting point for a blog post, Facebook post or tweet; tag @FeedingAmerica and use hashtag #SNAPChallenge so we’ll see it!
|How did your shopping cart look compared to a normal week? What choices did you have to make about the types of food you could afford, where you shopped, or the nutritional quality and variety of food?|
|What have you cut out of your routine to stay on budget (e.g. COFFEE)?|
|How would this experience be different if your spouse and children were also eating off a limited food budget for the week?|
|How has eating on a limited budget impacted your mood? Your concentration? How has that impacted your interaction with family and coworkers?|
|Are you worried about your groceries running out before the end of the Challenge? Do you feel you are you eating a healthy, balanced diet? What nutrition decisions did you have to make?|
|We know that low-income Americans have to make choices between groceries, prescriptions, gas for the car, utilities, and other household necessities. After living on a limited food budget this week, how has your perspective changed about the decisions families facing hunger must make?|
|In November 2013, the government will cut SNAP benefits for all recipients. These cuts will be $36 for a family of four – dropping the average benefit per person per meal to under $1.40. How would this week have been different for you if you had even less money to spend on food?|
p.s. Here’s an article on how Food Pantries at Schools Offer Lessons in Support.
p.p.s. And did you know that minimum wage workers need food stamps because they are not making a living wage?
Jon Stewart Slays The Food Stamp Fraud Dragon In One Hilarious Clip in this 9 minute clip.